It is autumn! At least, that’s what the calendar tells us. My car thermometer, on the other hand, says it is 93 degrees at 6:30 pm. We’ve had more than eighty days of 90+ temperatures in North Georgia this year. Enough is enough already! But supposedly it’s autumn, and that means it’s officially my favorite season.

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I love fall for so many reasons. For pumpkin patches and apple orchards, for candy corn and nutmeg and cloves, for gemstone leaves and front porch scarecrows. Albert Camus proclaimed autumn “a second spring, when every leaf’s a flower.” And I tend to agree. I mostly love fall because it symbolizes new beginnings in all sorts of ways for my family: a new school year, a new football season, and even, last October, a new grandbaby! Fall is my absolute favorite!

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Fall is the season of new school years: new faces, new potential, new energy, new passion. And even though we’ve already been in school for over seven weeks (this is the South, after all – we go back before the sunburns have even had a chance to peel), we still call this fall semester, and we’re still feeling fresh (sort of) when the autumnal equinox officially strikes. I have ninety some-odd sophomore and senior students sitting in my seats and eager to learn (sort of). And while the challenges are great and the resources are slim, I still have a tremendous reservoir of love for my students and passion for my subject. So fall is my favorite!

And fall is the season of football, the game that seasons our family with a long, strong, complicated marinade. It is flavored with dynamic combinations, unexpected ingredients, raw emotions and daring outcomes — all served up on a spiral slice to robust and critical crowds. It is the sport that leaves me absolutely spellbound and absolutely spent… a complete and utter glutton for the punishment and pain, the pleasure and pride that makes up the season. As a football family, we wouldn’t want it any other way. So fall is my favorite!

And fall is the season for late afternoon drives in the countryside. Living in the country gives the boys and me ample opportunity to witness the glory that is fall: golden soybean fields, corn crops with buzz cuts, and barnyard nurseries – the farm animals are having their fall babies! We pass a menagerie of livestock on our way home from daycare every weekday, and I swear, almost any given pasture on almost any given day has a new baby to ogle. Parker and Tate provide a running commentary, building their vocabulary with each fascinating new discovery. We pass a horse farm (Look, mama! Baby neigh neighs!), a multitude of cow pastures (baby moo cows!) and even a field full of mama sheep and their newborn lambs (yams, mama, yams!). I bet there’s a dozen “yams” in that pen — little, bleary clouds scattered sleepily across the grass and under the pines. My breath catches at the sight of them every single time.

And fall is the season for hay bales. I’m here to say that I never knew how compelling hay bales could be until I had twin boys with a hearty devotion to tractors. There’s been a steady harvest in recent weeks on our trek home. From one field to the next, the same scene has run its course and the boys never tire of talking about them. “Look! Hay bales! Tractor make hay bales! Big truck took hay bales. Hay bales gone, mama. Where hay bales?… Look! Hay bales! Tractor make hay bales. Where hay bales, mama? Hay bales gone. Big truck took hay bales… Look, hay bales!” I dread the day when all of the hay bales are gone. It will be a dark day, indeed.

Fall is the season of long and languid afternoon sun, a sun that leans low to blind drivers and irritate toddlers on rides home, a sun that creeps deep inside living room floors to kiss sleeping cats and butter bare toes, a sun that catches dust and pollen dancing in its rays for an undeniable reminder of allergy season – as if we needed reminding. The boys’ noses have had snail trails from nostril to lip for weeks now.

Fall is the season of baking treats and making memories. I used to spend hours in the kitchen when the girls were little, crafting fall festival Cake Walk prizes and bake sale bounty. I can hardly wait until I’m doing the same for the boys. Baking makes me dizzily, freakishly happy. It’s my mother’s fault. She baked a lot when I was a kid, her hair, frosted with highlights (and probably splatters of buttercream frosting, as well), pulled back from her beaming, beautiful face. The world felt warm and wonderful and safe and sound in the sanctity of her kitchen — and I guess somewhere along the way, happiness, beauty, warmth and womanhood all got tangled up with baking for me. So now when I bake, I feel like I’m Wonder Woman on a mission to cure what ails the world, one Bundt cake at a time.

 

Pecan pies are my absolute favorite fall dessert, and yesterday I made my first one of the season. It went with Mike to the football war room, where the guys spend hours working on this week’s game plan. I hope it gave them a little lift in the midst of the Sunday grind. The smell of it still lingers in the house, a buttery, toasted richness that completely encompasses what fall means to me.

Fall is the season of my grandbaby’s birth. The little acorn came a full six weeks early last October – a fall fledgling with gangly limbs and translucent skin. He spent a couple of weeks in the NICU, gaining weight and strength and courage, and he’s been full speed ahead ever since. He shimmers like wheat fields in the sun when he smiles, and his eyes are brighter than crisp autumn skies. So thanks to Bentley Boo, fall is my favorite!

Finally, fall is the season of change. Colors change, temperatures change, grades and teachers and wardrobes and weather… they all change. And this fall, we’ll even see a leadership change – a new president elected. And I’m more afraid than I’ve ever been of what that change might bring. But I pray that Camus is right. That autumn is a second spring – a season of new beginnings – an opportunity for rebirth. May it baptize us all under the shower of leaves, washing us clean of this long, hot, angry summer of hate and intolerance. Let clarity and love, humanity and grace shine on us all. May we all feel welcomed and valued, respected and protected in this rapidly unfurling season of change.