A couple of days ago I noticed during my commute that the fall color on the trees was peaking—it won’t get much prettier than it was that day, and soon it will start to decline. Another fall. It snuck up on me. Halloween passed a few days ago, and September and October, the months that evoke some of most bittersweet nostalgia within me, are gone. Another fall—it has gotten so I can hardly look at the red and gold hillsides without my nerves twinging in an uncomfortable but unregrettable way, like chocolate melting on a cavity.
I don’t know why fall affects me so. The childhood memories of Halloween costumes—which my mom often sewed per my request—sewed! Of dumping candy and sorting and sorting some more, of golden aspen leaves in my Colorado hometown, of the red maple leaves I saw on the walks home from my elementary school in Texas. The smell of cinnamon, which, on a certain type of morning, makes me feel like it alone may be enough to make life worth living. The first days of preschool both as a child and as an adult—I am a sucker for preschool. Its sweet rituals, its schedules, its adherence to traditions of songs, and books, and snacks, and the coloring of paper leaves and pumpkins … it is a comforting thing that feels endless, cyclic, even though it ends all too soon. I will always see my daughter as a newly minted preschooler—not a baby, not the tall wise (and wise-ass) child she is now, but a round-faced little elf with a backpack too big to carry, who, under a bit of duress, agreed to be a butterfly for Halloween, but only a blue one, and who, under a bit more duress, agreed to wear the wings for at least a few minutes at school. In fact, I am surprised every time I see her now, at seven, thinking, “Oh! This is you!” as I always expect to meet the gaze of the the three-year-old. I will, I guess, forevermore be surprised to see her, my amnesiac mind always returning her to her previous self as soon as she is no longer in my presence.
The nostalgia of this time of year is overwhelming, making me grieve things I haven’t yet lost, wondering with each small event if this is going to be one of those last times that I don’t know is the last time…oh so gradually life habituates me to these small losses of transformation, until I am shocked to find the leaves warming themselves with color, to find the nights crisp and cold, to find my babies not babies and myself feeling worn, and—could it be?—not exactly young anymore. The hope though—somehow the nostalgia brings it along with the melancholy. Every year, when the leaves fall, something within me panics—will they grow back again? Will this be the last time they transform, like a twelve-year-old trick-or-treater’s last hurrah? But so far, every year, without my notice, they sneak back, stealthily, until the time is right to transform into full color costume and shout “Boo!”—a trick to assure me of our presence, for now, in the land of the living.