Tag Archives: Autumn

When a Walk in the Park is Not a Walk in the Park

“A girl from school wrote that she was going to kill herself on Facebook.”

Up until then, the leaves under our feet made swishy, dry sounds. But I stopped moving.

I needed to sit down, but he didn’t want to so I had to keep walking.

“She said goodbye and everything. I didn’t find out about it until after it happened.”

I held my breath as we passed the trees that had turned gold.

Tinker Park. Henrietta, New York. Fall 2012

“Is she okay?” I asked, praying hard for this girl who was suddenly with us like the wind in the trees.

“Her friends contacted her mother or something. She’s in the hospital.”

“Do you know her?” I shoved my hands in my pockets.

“Not really. I found out from a friend.”

We stopped at the water’s edge and found each other’s eyes.

“I want you to promise me something.”

My son looked at me. He knew what I was going to say. But I said it anyway.

“If someone threatens to hurt themselves or someone else on Facebook or in a text or in real life, you have to promise me that you will take it seriously.”

“I will.”

“No matter where I am. You have to contact me. I’ll help you do whatever we need to do.”

My son tilted his chin. “Sometimes you can’t answer your phone.”

He had me there. Because when I am teaching, I can’t take calls. Or answer texts.

The wind blew cool air though my sweater.

“You know what I mean. You can leave me a message. I can check messages. If there is an emergency, I can always make time.”

My son nodded.

The sun was going down as we turned down the mossy path.

As my feet moved, I thought about the girl’s mother. How terrified she had to be.

I thought of a car accident that occurred just a few miles down the road: how a young driver had been speeding through a residential neighborhood and smashed into a bus. They could have all been killed, but they weren’t.

I thought of my son who has been quiet lately. How we don’t connect the way we used to. How I don’t know what he does for most of his day. How he is going on a trip to New York City on a school field-trip in a few weeks.

I won’t be there.

And what if he needs me?

“Mom,” Tech called. He’d stopped to inspect something on the ground. “Come check out this bug carcass.”

I looked at my son. I thought he was going to say thank you. Or run over and hug me. Or tell me how glad he was that we had talked. I thought a lot of things. But he didn’t do or say any of the things he used to do and say so readily.

“Let me take a picture of you,” he said, holding out his hand for the camera.

So I posed for him.

“You okay?” he asked, a line creased his forehead.

I told him that I was fine, but it was a lie.

Because 8th graders shouldn’t be thinking about killing themselves.

They shouldn’t be thinking about dying.

Back at the car, we noticed our shadows.

“My shadow is taller than yours,” my son smiled. “I’m catching up to you.”

I looked at the red and the yellow and the green around me. I looked at my son in his maroon hoodie which will soon be too small for him. A gust blew some leaves off the trees. They soared over our heads and then fell on the grass, quivering.

I know time is passing, but is it so wrong to want things to stay like this for a little while longer?

I’m not ready for winter.

When is the last time you slowed down, unplugged and took a walk with someone you care about? Do me a favor, call someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Or write that person a letter. Do something to show someone you care about them today. What is one beautiful thing you can do to show someone they are important to you? Or (conversely), what do you wish someone would do or say to you today. Let me be that person.

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What My Fingernails Know

photo by rocket ship @ flickr.com

When every fingernail on both of my hands has broken, I know it for sure: summer is over. It happens to me every year over a two or three-day period. It’s a physical thing; parts of me grow brittle and fall off. Long before the leaves ever change to yellow or orange, my body knows: autumn is in the house.

There may be a rogue “warm day” where the temperatures skyrocket into the 70s. Children put on their shorts and short-sleeved t-shirts. Folks celebrate, go for bike rides and walks in the park. And while I, of course, appreciate the warmth, the glow, the sun in my eyes, I know it is all an elaborate ruse.

The corn has been harvested. My clematis has withered and turned brown. And because I am perpetually cold, I am the first to pull out the winter bin, which holds all the hats and scarves and gloves. And once this curly-haired girl puts her hat on, it stays on.

Until April.

My closest friends know this about me – that I wear hats for about half of the year – but I have to explain myself to each new batch of fall students.

I tell them that I am a summer girl, and while I love the change of seasons – apple picking, pumpkin carving, Halloween and snow-skiing – deep in my bones, I will forever long for those years in New Orleans, Louisiana, where summer was eternal and stretched well into November, sometimes beyond.

I tell them that every boy I ever really loved I met in the summer, and it is hard for me to let go of the sun and heat of my youth; that each year, like some weird woman disguised as a tree, I actually feel myself growing a little older, that instead of rings around my trunk to reflect my age, I collect wrinkles around my eyes. Each September, I lose a little of my fashizzle, my sparkle, my shine. It comes back. (It always comes back. It just goes underground and hibernates with the raccoons and the bears for a few months.)

Some of them claim to understand.

(Some of them tell me there is medication I can take.)

Some of them tell me summer isn’t over yet, and that there are sure to be plenty of pretty, warm days ahead.

I don’t care what the calendar says.

My fingernails don’t lie.

It’s fall.

How do you know when summer is really over? Are you ready to let it go?

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In the Middle of October

I recently had a nostalgic moment. The tree reminded me of something I hadn't thought about in a long time.

I remember you mornings mostly, emerging from showers: towel-clad, shoulders bare and water-speckled.

Wrapped in the orange glow from overhead heating lamps, enveloped by thick bathroom mist, you shined, luminescent. Poreless, your skin, bronze and pure, and I noticed you (as if for the first time) golden curls, heavy and weighted with water, still catching light and reflecting syrupy-sweetness.

So solid, you stood like some kind of crazy tree, and like the long-armed, wobbly-kneed tomboy I used to be, I wanted to climb your branches.

Wanted to become part of your limbs’ history.

Wanted to climb your sweet boughs, surrounded by soft reds and browns and gold, press my nose to hair which I remember smelled like autumn, musky and damp.

Everything about you reminds me of Fall, a time that, as a child, I called “tree-turn season,” a time that reminds me of a drum beat, or a heart beat, or some kind of gentle pounding, like a child’s fist on a brass knocker at Halloween.

(Was this why I loved you?)

There were more reasons, I’m sure, but in that moment, time spilled through air, an emptiness filled, and I scooped up fallen bits of my reality, throwing them invisibly overhead like the crinkly leaves of my childhood, as golden drops of water slipped down your back and you moved behind our bedroom door.

I didn’t recognize it then, but I should have known that winter was coming.

After apple-picking and pumpkin-carving and Halloweening, what do you remember about autumn?

This week writers were asked to use the weather, or a photo of an autumn day to inspire a memoir piece in under 300 words. For more wonderful pieces, click on the button above.

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