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.
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.
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.
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.
“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