Friday, November 21, 2008


Oh, boy. I can't believe I've just titled a blog post 'Fall.' But I did. Must be a habit left over from twelve years of essays assigned by the Sisters of Mercy somewhere between the first day of school and Thanksgiving week.

I like fall. When I was a kid, fall meant school. I was one of those dorky types who actually liked school, or at least never questioned it as a necessary experience. Fall meant new classes, new possibilities, new pencils and books and the smell of chalk. (Maybe kids today would like school better if they still had chalk. It was so much a part of the ambiance - not just the smell, but the dust and the scritching noise and the occasional tooth-shattering squeal of it.)

I remember crunching through piles of flame-red maple leaves, my cat's-eye glasses sliding on my nose, lunch in a brown paper bag being squashed between my green-plaid-adorned chest and the books piled in my arms. I remember the little butterfly-wriggle of excitement when I entered my new classroom, took my seat, and began assessing the new teacher.

Other good stuff: burning the leaves after we raked them, Halloween and its accompanying stomach-ache, Thanksgiving dinner with the forty or so members of the family who would make the trek to my uncle's farm. Buying sweaters and eating Jonathan apples. Watching The Twilight Zone on Friday nights. Listening to my father's voice floating out the window on Saturday afternoons: Hell's bells, he'd holler when the Chicago Bears failed to score. And somewhere in there, before Christmas came and winter smacked us down, was the first snowfall of the season.

Fall is a different experience now. Partly this is due to my living in SoCal, where the seasons are less in-your-face than in the Midwest; partly it's because I don't go to school anymore, except to tutor children wearing clothes which would have sent the Sisters into cardiac arrest, who have to be reminded to turn their cell phones off during class, and who have never smelled chalk. No one burns leaves, and my uncle's farm was sold off a couple of decades ago. Even so, fall still has its moments. In SoCal, the avocados and lemons ripen, the liquid amber trees put on a show in time for Thanksgiving, and the temperatures can be described as moderate on most days.

McMama: Do you know why they call it fall?
Granddaughter: No.
McMama: Because everything falls.
GD, skeptically: Everything?
McMama: Well, everything that's supposed to fall. Leaves, nuts, pine cones, avocados.

(An acorn smacks onto the roof and bounces to the floor of the deck where we're sitting on the porch swing.)

GD: I think you're kind of nutty.
McMama: Takes one to know one.

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