Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Drop in Temperature

I've always been a believer in the idea that we underestimate the individual senses that God gifted us with.  Take for instance, the sense of smell: blindfold me and wave a tester strip of Donna Karan's Cashmere Mist under my nose and I will immediately tell you that I wore that on my wedding day.  Bath and Body Works Sun-Ripened Raspberry?  St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, Freshman year, Le Fer Hall, 4th Floor...my roommate Julie would spritz it in the air and let it fall on her.  Palmolive Lavender Dish washing liquid?  2003, Ft. Richardson, Alaska, Juneau Ave where we'd just moved into our home on post and I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with my first child.  The poignancy with which I can remember such things just proves to me how often we take our senses for granted.

I was reminded on Monday morning--Labor Day--just how much I take the sense of touch for granted.  The weather had gone from highs in the 100s on Saturday to highs in the 60s on Monday.  Drastic?  Just a bit perhaps.  But that tingly chill on my skin--not uncomfortably cold, but not warm enough to go without sleeves--brought back a flood of memories from my childhood of Fall and how much I loved it.  Yes, I know perfectly well that we are 3 weeks away from the actual season of Autumn, but that drop in temperature was all I needed to be transported back to the happiest season of my childhood.

I loved Fall!  I still do!  I sweat too much to love summer, and tire of the bitter cold enough to love winter.  That leaves Spring and Fall, but since the temps dropped rather than rose, I am favoring Fall a bit more than Spring.  ...ask me next April what I prefer and you're bound to get a different answer though!  ;)  

That sudden chill in the air brought me back to being a preteen in the country of south-central Illinois on a Friday afternoon.  I had worn my favorite new lavender sweater to school since it was finally cool enough to wear long sleeves.  Was the sweater a bit much?  Probably, but I didn't care.  My mom taught at the same school I attended so I always rode to and from with her, but on some days, especially when she needed to stay after for parent/teacher conferences or meetings or who knows what, I'd be allowed to ride the bus home.  I loved it, and not because I got to be around the other kids, for if anything, they were a nuisance to me.  I will be the first one to admit that I was awkwardly "old" for my age at that time of my life.  Constantly be around adults made me think and act more like them than my peers and so I was left in an awkward state.  No, I loved riding the bus because it would take us through the country, following closely to the path of the river, and the trees would be beginning their transition into the vibrant warm colors of the setting sun.  I was usually one of the last ones off the bus and I enjoyed the quiet ride for the last quarter of the trip so that could day dream peacefully about what the wonderful weather and long-sought after weekend would hold.  

I'd step off the bus into the perfect breeze as if it meant to greet me instantly.  The bus would take off behind me with a gentle roar of it's engine and I'd continue on to the front door, which we never used when I rode home with my mom.  Some strange-looking cat--one of many that just seem to accumulate on farms--would rub up against my leg in a friendly welcome and then bounce off as I approached the door, knowing full well it wasn't allowed inside.  Once that door was open I'd be hit with the smell of my mom's chili that she'd have started that morning in the slow-cooker so it would be ready when we got home.  Mom NEVER made chili when it was hot out, so the first pot of chili always seemed to be a right of passage into the cooler months ahead.  No one else was home, seeing as my dad drove a bus too at that time and was still out dropping off the school kids on his route.  It was okay though, I could take care of myself and truly, I enjoyed the solitude of being alone.  But with the weather the way it was who needed or wanted to be inside!  I'd drop my backpack in it's spot and head back out the front door.

My parents' have since screened in their front porch, but at that time it was open to the outdoors.  I'd usually flop down on wide concrete railing and gaze to the south at my favorite spots: Bob's Grove with it's tightly packed trees changing color and the ramshackle little barn surrounded by hay bales.  Or even more to the south, where lay Judy's house, a cornucopia of fun times and a place where as a younger child I'd ask to usher in Fall on the first day of September (because don't the "-ber" months mean Fall?!)by raiding her upstairs junk room for the paper bag of old costumes and Halloween makeup.  And since, I was going to dress up, so were her 3 younger kids, whom I'd later take on a wildflower-picking walk down their little country road.  I would sit there, on that railing, just remembering and smiling.  Then my dad would pull in the drive in his big yellow school bus, followed shortly by mom.  We'd sit down and enjoy the chili that had simmered all day and talk about the weekend.  Maybe a visit to or from a sibling of mine--all older and with their own families.  Maybe a craft show on Saturday.  Or maybe we'd make our own scarecrow out of some of dad's terribly worn work clothes.  Whatever it was, it didn't matter to me because I was on cloud nine taking in Fall and all it's glory.  I remember it all so clearly.

And I remember still.  

There is just something about the relief of a drop in temperature in September, that ushers in a flood of memories and, with it, a yearning for Fall.  For warm sweaters, hot cider, pumpkins and scarecrows, chili and crackers, hayrides and bonfires, wildflowers and warmly colored leaves, old Halloween costumes and popcorn popped on the stove. And for a little girl in a lavender sweater sitting on her front porch.

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