I love the first few days of November. The weather is cool and crisp, there are more leaves off the trees than on, and we still have a few more weeks until the bustle of the holidays gets into full swing. For me this is a time of reflection, or maybe it would be more accurate to say “nostalgia.” There is just something about autumn that takes me back to my childhood, and also into myself. The bare branches of the trees, piles of leaves on front lawns, and the smell of smoke in the air sends my mind on a journey that at times I wish the rest of me could follow.
My siblings and I would rake the leaves that had fallen from our huge maple tree and then jump into the piles. I’d walk back on our farm, toward the creek or pond, wading through tall, brown grass, maybe flushing out a pheasant or two along the way. There would be high school football games, and hayrides, and we always participated in autumn school and Community Theater productions. Life was good and childhood would never end.
While I still enjoy many fall activities, including hayrides and corn mazes, it isn’t the same. Leaves are to be raked and bagged, not jumped into with abandon. Walks include a fit bit or pedometer because I need to get more steps in. I enjoy the last of the flowers but then I remind myself that I need to weed and clean up the yard before too long.
So I long to go back to a simpler time of sweaters and mittens, and fun and laughter. Until I remember the whole truth. Yes, there is an innocence and joy that comes with childhood but there were also chores and responsibilities, tests and homework. And algebra. Life was never as simple or fun as it is through the lens of nostalgia.
Instead of going back, I try to look back with honesty and forgiveness – mostly forgiving myself for being such a clueless kid. But in looking back, I can see how far I’ve come, the obstacles I’ve defeated, the ones I didn’t, and how they’ve all changed me for the better.
Still, you can’t look back too long so instead I use my foray into my memories to ground me in the present and prepare me for today, tomorrow, and whatever else is to come. I have a new, challenging job, a wonderful husband whom I married in November fourteen years ago, and a daughter who is living what will someday be her own childhood memories. I hope she has joyful events to reflect on when she is my age, like hayrides and pumpkin carving and the time we had a picnic on the porch roof, but this is in her hands, not mine.
The leaves have turned, the warm blankets are on the bed, the woodpile is stocked, and I’m ready for my memories and my future. Happy Autumn.
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