Autumn

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“Autumn… the year’s last, loveliest smile.”

William Cullen Bryant

When I was a young lad, my favorite time of year was autumn.  As I search back in my memories, several reasons come to mind.  First, the sweltering days of summer had finally passed and were behind me.  While a certain joy came with never being cold, Oklahoma summers were nearly always miserable, blistering hot days, ones where your clothes were soaked with sweat at the least exertion.  Yes, it was that bad.  Autumn was the dessert, the reward for surviving the white-hot inferno of summer.

Even more importantly, autumn was the season of every child’s favorite holiday: Halloween.  Being born with an insatiable sweet tooth, I would plan for weeks for this grand occasion, the highlight of the year, a time when parental concerns about overdosing their children on unlimited amounts of sugar, artificial colors and flavors were temporarily brushed aside.  To my adolescent mind, the burning question was: How can I go to as many houses as possible?  In plain speak, the more homes I went to, the more candy I would get.

The most pressing concern that my brother Jim and I had was to convince our parents to chaperone our little sister, Connie. If we had to wait for her as she strolled along, casually hobnobbing with her friends who happened to cross our paths, our progress would have been significantly impeded.  I loved my sis, but Halloween was serious business, and it was critical to pull out all the stops. I would say to my parents something like this, “Hey, Mom and Dad, how about taking Connie with you for Halloween?  Jim and I might go too fast for her, and we’d hate to accidentally leave her behind.”  With these words, my parent’s eyes widened, and they began to get nervous looks on their faces. Seeing my comments were having the desired effect, I added, “You know, it might not be safe.”  When the “safe” word was invoked, all doubt was instantly erased from my parents’ minds, and invariably my brother and I were allowed to go out on our own.

When the exalted day of Halloween finally arrived, I would wear my best, pavement-gripping tennis shoes, so that I could sprint from home to home as quickly as my little legs could carry me.  For the entire time, I was in a state of near panic, knowing I had only one shot at it for the year, and any goofs I made would have to wait until next Halloween to correct.  One especially annoying trap I occasionally fell into was when certain neighbors made the unfortunate decision to give healthy snacks for Halloween.  How dare they?  Kids didn’t go trick or treating to get apples, oranges, bananas, or other such nourishing treats.  We wanted the good stuff, candy that we could get sugar highs on, sweets that would mercilessly extract fillings for which our parents had paid their life savings. Health and Halloween simply didn’t go together, and we liked it that way.

I’ll never forget the year I had collected so much candy, I wasn’t sure what to do with it all. I certainly wouldn’t give any to my sister, who had collected about a tenth of what I had in my bulging, grocery sack full of goodies. I had worked hard for my candy, and I planned to keep every delectable morsel. Faced with a dilemma of major proportions, I made the seemingly brilliant decision to be much like a pirate and bury my booty.  So, I grabbed a healthy chunk of my candy, hermetically sealed it in a coffee can, and clandestinely buried it deep in the ground in our backyard, furtively looking from side-to-side to be certain I wasn’t seen.  Six months later, when I was having a major case of sugar withdrawal, I grabbed a shovel and excitedly dug up my treasure, only to discover that the can had somehow leaked, and what was once perfectly delicious candy was now moldy and rotten.  I ate several pieces just to be sure, hoping beyond hope that at least some of the candy was still edible.  Sigh . . .  I was depressed for weeks, but I learned from my experience, in that one can never have too much candy, and never again would I save it for the future.

∞∞∞

As I have become an adult, autumn is still my favorite season, but for different reasons. While I still have a sweet tooth of major proportions, it is a fraction of what it used to be.  Nowadays, at least part of my love for autumn lies in the beauty of the surroundings.  The kaleidoscope of colors, whether gold, brown, orange, red or yellow, strike me as being representative of God’s multicolored palette, painting the environment in pleasant, soft, comforting hues. Also, autumn is the time for harvest, a gathering of the fruits of one’s labors.  As compared to spring and summer with their inherent frenetic activities, and winter, where survival from the cold is the prime directive, autumn is the ideal season to ask the questions: What is the end result of the seeds I planted this year?  What can I do better?  

As you might have guessed, in spite of my sugar craving, now my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.  As opposed to Christmas with its rampant commercialism and out-of-control gift giving, Thanksgiving is a time of expressing thanks for my many blessings, celebrated by a sumptuous meal with loved ones.  No presents are expected or necessary, just good food, camaraderie and conversation, not necessarily in that order. In short, I love the simplicity, love and grace that come with autumn, the best time of year for just about everything.

But, as I think about it, I wonder:  Do they allow adults to trick or treat?

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