Monday, August 20, 2012

Transitions: The Coming of Autumn

I live in a place where there are four beautiful seasons.  For the last few days I have begun to smell autumn in the air.  The windows are open and the rooms take on a fresh chill at night.  I am beginning to think fuzzy fleece jackets instead of T-shirts.  I love autumn… BUT… I am not a huge fan of winter.  That distinctive smell of autumn, which I can only describe as the scent of cold, creates a certain amount of mourning and melancholy, grieving the final days of summer.  Summer is still officially here and will be here for a month, but I can feel it pulling away from me.

This transition also has a lot to do with light.  The light is leaving.  The sun has packed its bags and headed for the western horizon a few minutes earlier each night.  This is great for parents.  School will be starting soon and it is very difficult to persuade children, who have played from early dawn until right before the porch lights are switched on, that they need to be in bed while the sun still shines.

But then there is summer.  Summer was my childhood dream.  I lived back in the time when sheets were hung on cord lines anchored to tall T shaped posts.  A cloth bag hung on one of the lines filled with wooden clothespins.  Clothespins came in two types, the ones that you used to make people and X shaped fences… and the other which was great for teasing and trying to pinch your little brother.  The best thing was that I could disappear into a world of billowing white.  I could wander between the sheets and smell sunshine. I could rub the slightly coarse sheets on my cheeks, the roughness due to being dried only by the light and the fresh warm breeze.

I remember getting up early in the morning and playing in the fort made by crawling under the bedclothes draped over the end of my parents' four poster bed.  It was the perfect place to hide and giggle with my brother.  Wooden woven baskets were worn like turtle shells or when flipped back over became our cars, boats, planes, or trains.  We seemed to not mind spending time with our knees curled up to our noses. 

I don't think that many kids get to have the summers I had.  We had Moms in every house.  We would make the rounds and get a cup of Kool-Aid here, a piece of buttered bread sprinkled with sugar from the house behind us, and maybe a chocolate chip or sugar cookie from the house next door.  We ran free because everyone knew who we were, where we belonged, and who to call if we picked someone's flowers or ran through the neighbor's yard that was a no play zone.  We knew the rules and followed them.  If I didn't my Mom knew what I had done before I even thought about doing it.

Maybe that is it.  Maybe it is more than just the ending of summer.  Maybe it is the ending of childhood… not only mine but the childhood that most kids will never know.  Too much need for daycare, too many organized sports, too much busy, too many demands on parents and children to be over achievers, to be smarter and brighter, and to be better or the best at anything and everything  they try to do.  No room for failure, no room for trying something new, and no time to learn from making mistakes.  We need to create time to get in the mud and get dirty and to climb a tree and feel it sway in the wind…

Yes, I can smell the cold.  I can feel the change in the air and even though no childhood is perfect… I think mine was as close as they come.  So please take a deep breath, go outside, lie on the grass and watch the clouds.  Be a child with wide innocent eyes and grab a little bit of peace and warmth before the transition from summer to autumn falls into a pile of colored leaves and if you have children… share it with your child or grandchild.