Listen to Your October

There’s a stillness in the air, hanging lightly like a whisper, as it sits on the fence between late afternoon and early evening.  The last vestiges of a warm, October day give way to the cool of an autumn evening, as if on the verge of a cold, starlit night.

A strange malaise, a nostalgic longing pushes against the beat of my heart.  A sense that at this time of year I belong somewhere else, in another time, in a life once lived.  It is a place where parents take their children to farms where carts groan with the weight of pumpkins in every size to be hand-picked and taken home, later to be carved as Jack-o-lanterns.

Jack Skellington Jack-o-lantern carved by Aspie Daughter (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Jack Skellington Jack-o-lantern carved by Aspie Daughter
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Apple cider is served in paper cups and bags of popcorn in red-stripped paper bags.  Children clamber on haystacks and build up enough courage to creep inside dark, spooky ghost houses where plastic spiders, moaning ghosts and glow-in-the-dark Frankenstein monsters lurk about in dark corners, all conspiring to scare the living daylights out of them.  For fun.

My children at the Pumpkin Farm, California (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

My children at the Pumpkin Farm, California
(c) Sherri Matthews 2013

This place that I imagine even now is where I would wait to collect my children from school in the afternoon hours.  The early morning chill which had given need of a jacket had broken into another warm day, as if the heat just didn’t want to quit entirely, not just yet. Their red apple cheeks gave more than a hint of this as they came running out of their classrooms, loaded down with discarded jackets, backpacks stuffed with goodness-knows-what,   their hands clutching at important teacher’s notes and homework sheets and lunch boxes filled with the healthy food that they hadn’t wanted to eat that day.

Driving home, never mind talking about what they did at school that day.  The most important thing would be what outfits they would be wearing for their upcoming Halloween parties and trick or treating.

Scarecrows squat on front porches of clapboard houses, surrounded by pumpkins, gourds and sheaves of corn.  Homes are decorated with autumn displays and wreaths of sunflowers adorn front doors.  This wasn’t something we did growing up in England. This was a new tradition I embraced in this land of nostalgia.   My own children grew up with it in America and these are just some of the traditions which we shared.

Getting ready for Halloween (c) Sherri Matthews

Getting ready for Halloween (c) Sherri Matthews

I miss those days.  I miss picking up my children from school and talking about their day.  Things seemed more simple back then, but of course they weren’t. They never are.  We like to think that things were better in the ‘good old days’ because we blot out the daily struggles we contended with and consign them to the rubbish heap of ‘not to be remembered’.

These memories I share are the good, strong memories. I don’t want to remember the times when I was distracted and didn’t really listen when my children were talking to me and those moments when I had on my ‘listening face’.  You know the one where you are hearing their voices and you are nodding and saying, “Uh hu” but you are thinking about the something or that someone who had really pissed you off that day instead.  They know you aren’t really listening but they don’t hold it against you.

In the quietness of this early evening, then, I will listen.  I will listen to the distant voices of my young children from another time and another place and I will remember our Octobers.

Then, I will listen to the now, to the present.  To the words spoken softly to my heart at this precise moment which tell me gently and simply to live in this October, to enjoy every moment for what it is.  To remember what it was that I missed so much.  I don’t have to now, because I am right where I belong, right here, at home, in England.

Flatford Mill, Suffolk, England in October  (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

Flatford Mill, Suffolk, England in October
(c) Sherri Matthews 2013

“October is the fallen leaf, but it is also a wider horizon more clearly seen.  It is the distant hills once more in sight and the enduring constellations above them once again.”Hal Borland

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has been writing full time since 2011. Currently working on her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', she has been published in a variety of national magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief blogging, gardening, walking by the sea and snapping endless photographs. Her garden robin muse vists regularly.
This entry was posted in Childhood Memories, Family Life, Family Traditions, Musings, My California and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Listen to Your October

  1. Rachel says:

    Beautifully written and thoughtful post, Sherri.

    I too am guilty of fake listening. I know I do it and I hate that I do it but I still do it. How can we stop that? Fortunately my youngest knows when I’m doing it and she gets really cross and manages to divert my full attention to her.

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    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Rachel. Funny thoughts going through my head today. I always feel nostalgic at this time of year and having just spent the weekend with my boys too. I don’t how to stop the fake listening other than be aware that we are doing it and then make a conscience effort to ‘come to’. Our children always know when we do it. Like with your daugther, mine used to actually grab my face with her two hands and pull my face towards her to make sure I had her full attention! Even now with all the distractions of modern technology I have to be careful. We do say in our family, “You’ve got your listening face on” and then we know to stop it 😉

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  2. Yes, the fall air has come thankfully to northern Cali…love this time of year. It smells of renewal. I will make it a point to go for a walk this week and post some pics for you.

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  3. Beautiful post, Sherri! I love how cool and crisp the morning are this time of year. Although we reached 86 degrees over the weekend, I know cooler weather is on its way. Thanks for sharing your lovely photos. I love the Jack-o-lantern photo!

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    • Sherri says:

      Yes, can you believe how warm it was this weekend? We went for a walk on Sunday in Lewes (near Brighton) where my son lives and it was almost too hot! The cool and crisp mornings do have a very autumnal feel to them and that lovely mist too! Thank you Jill, so glad you enjoyed this post and also the pics too! My daughter made the Jack-o-lantern a few years ago 🙂

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  4. xbox2121 says:

    A very well written post Sherri, it makes me pause and remember the memories I had as a child and the memories I had as a parent with small children. I believe the part about nor really listening to your children, as parents we were all guilty of from time to time !

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    • Sherri says:

      Thanks so much Bob, really glad you enjoyed reading this and that it brought back some happy childhood memories for you and your own children too. Yes, we are all guilty of not always listening properly but our children cut us more slack than we realise at the time I think. After all, none of us are perfect 🙂

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  5. Denise says:

    The sentiments here are so deep and conflicting. The excitement of the new America, and it being part of what your children always knew, against what you were missing. The good memories and the bad… which are real? How does time change our memories and also our perceptions of ourselves? All set against such an evocative background.

    Your daughter looks beautiful in the haystack.

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    • Sherri says:

      See Denise, this is why you are such a super book reviewer! I know where to bring my book for a review (if and when I ever get the thing written!). You hit the nail on the head here, conflicting being the operative word. You know how to bring out my struggle with my existence between these two worlds, even when I find it hard to express it adequately! How indeed our perceptions of ourselves change over time, hidden deep within our chosen memories.
      Thank you for your great insight, and also for your lovely compliment of my daughter’s photo. I am very fond of this one in particular. She was never happier than when we went out for a day at the Pumpkin Farm 🙂

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  6. Simply lovely, Sherri. Is it okay with you if I link to this (and credit you, of course, with an introduction) on my upcoming “bloggers’-party” post called “pumpkin party?”

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    • Sherri says:

      Hi Tracy, why yes, absolutely, of course, I would be delighted to be linked to your ‘pumpkin party’! Thanks so much! What a lovely idea, I can’t wait! I will be doing more Halloween posts throughout the month too 🙂

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  7. What a beautiful post Sherri! I am also guilty of auditory “skimming” and I wish I this was something I can easily do away with. I know childhood can just pass by and the next thing we know our children and taller and bigger than us.

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    • Sherri says:

      Thanks so much Jhanis, so glad you enjoyed reading. I was a bit down in the dumps yesterday when I wrote it but I got there in the end 🙂 It is so true about our children, time passes in a whisper. In my case, they definitely did grow taller – my boys are 6’4″ and 6′ 5″!!!!!

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  8. Glynis Jolly says:

    Beautiful sentiments. Although the day used to have more of a religious connotation, it most certainly is an American family holiday.

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    • Sherri says:

      Many thanks Glynis. Yes, especially over here with more focus I think on Harvest Festival which is what I remember growing up. The way Halloween is celebrated in America was unlike anything I had ever seen before when I first moved back there!

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  9. jennypellett says:

    This is great, Sherri. I know what you mean about listening – now that they are older we can always think back and say – I wish I’d listened more/did I miss something important/should I have responded differently – would the outcome be the same? Our kids are as they are, the occasional lapse in listening makes them realise they are not always the centre of our attention – there are other issues grown ups have to deal with: helps them be grown ups themselves.
    (By the way – my next post has an October theme – how spooky is that. I’ve even got a couple of words the same as yours in the introduction which, on reflection, I’ll leave in rather than change them so that you can see how in tune we are. Need to finish it off and typo check – expect something by the end of the week!) 🙂

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    • Sherri says:

      Thanks Jenny, glad you enjoyed it! That is spooky indeed about your post and I can’t wait to read it 🙂 (btw I haven’t forgotten about the synaesthesia post, it will be coming soon and I’ll let you know before hand!!)
      I love what you say about listening to our children and you are absolutely right. We can second-guess ourselves so much yet, it doesn’t do them any harm to know that we are not perfect and only human and that the world doesn’t revolve around them – at least, not all of the time 😉 As you say, all part of growing up 🙂

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  10. Catherine Johnson says:

    Great post! My daughter is so headstrong at five that she tells me off for being angry and I always know my son takes it to heart if I’m not really listening. I make a big effort to listen now they are both at school because I’ve had time to get my stuff out of the way. I’d hate for them to grow up not feeling special because mommy wasn’t listening. It’s hard enough for them to be heard outside the home don’t you agree?

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    • Sherri says:

      Thanks so much Catherine, glad you enjoyed reading! Yes, I do agree absolutely. I really wanted to give my children the message that what they had to say was very important. It’s great that you can do this at the end of your children’s school day. It’s the best time to catch them right when they first come home, before they get busy with other things in the evening and the moment is lost!

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  11. Pat says:

    Beautifully written, Sherri, capturing the sounds and smells of the nippy Octobers. I love this time of year when one season reluctantly yields to the next. Children keep us young and we tuck those memories past away in our hearts.

    I wonder what it would feel like this time of year to live in a warm, climate country that doesn’t have the change of seasons like we do in October.

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    • Sherri says:

      Ahh, thank you Pat, so glad you enjoyed reading! Yes, it is a lovely season and so evocative of those times spent with our children – they certainly do keep us young 🙂
      I wouldn’t like to live in a climate like that, it would feel so alien to me. Without the change of seasons there wouldn’t be that lovely easing into the changes that the seasons bring, physically and mentally!
      Have a lovely October day Pat… 🙂

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  12. Imelda says:

    Sherri, the first part of your post read like a poem. 🙂
    This is a lovely post, full of nostalgia and longing. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  13. Pingback: It’s October–join our pumpkin party! | Tracy Lee Karner

  14. Iamrcc says:

    Listening is by far the hardest act a person can accomplish. Most people are so focused on the response, they never hear what you actually said. More arguments have occurred over the few words spoken rather than the totality of the discourse. In order to listen, I think you have to not focus on yourself concentrate on the other individual. Hard to do in a society that is engrossed in “Meism”. Thanks for the like of my Weekly Photo Challenge post “The Hue in You”.

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    • Sherri says:

      You are very welcome, your photographs are beautiful, and thank you too very much for sharing your thoughts here. Listening is very hard to do, even when we think we are doing a fairly job of it! As you say, in this ‘me, me me’ society in which we live we really aren’t good at listening half as much as we should. I appreciate you taking the time to read my post and comment very much 🙂

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  15. A wonderful, evocative post Sherri.

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