By Lana Turnbull
For me, fall more than any other season stirs sweet and nostalgic memories. The strongest memories are often triggered by our senses. Fall days of the past come rushing back to me with the smell of wood smoke, the crunch of leaves, dark cotton dresses and the way pumpkin ‘innards’ feel when you are digging them out of your jack-o’-lantern. It conjures up football games and homecoming parades, cooler days and hazy orange sunsets.
For my mom, a former teacher who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease the last 10 years of her life, it meant back to school time – creating new bulletin boards and door decorations to welcome her new students. In her latter years, she would occasionally return to those times (reminiscent of the scene from “Driving Miss Daisy”) and talk about how tired she was after grading so many papers or worrying that she had to stay home from school with a cold. For my Dad, fall was harvest time – the rush to get in the crops before heavy rains or wind from the remnants of a September hurricane set in. It was time to get the cotton to the gin, and to burn off the stubble left when the beans and rice were cut. Sometimes after dark on still fall nights we would ride through the turn rows to check on the burning fields where little flames lit up the night.
There’s a bitter-sweetness about fall. You know the year is winding down and this is the last hoorah before the leaves are gone and the barren winter starts. Nature seems to want to kick up its heels a little more and go out with a bang. Tree foliage transforms to brilliant golds and reds, the sky turns a deep azure. Everywhere from the pumpkin patches to the roadsides bright with fall wildflowers, the natural world seems to be saying, “notice me, this is your last chance before things turn gloomy.” The cooler temperatures tempt us out of our climate-controlled homes and offices, as if they are begging us not to miss the show.
Just when I start getting downright morose, I remember that even if winter is coming – there’s always a chance we’ll get some snow, and like a school kid hoping for a snow day, I can start looking forward to what comes after fall. The holidays are just around the corner and after that…before we know it the first crocus and daffodils will start popping up. And it all starts over again.