(Some oldie but goodie photos to accompany this post)
I love fall. I love the smells. The smell of sweet decay as I kick my way through leaf piles that I should probably just walk around. The cool crisp air that still carries just a whisper of the sunshines’s warmth.
That feeling you get when you open the front door with slightly chilly fingers and feel yourself melt a little bit in the mix of cool air and warm homey scents from the kitchen of cinnamon and pumpkin soup and fresh bread straight from the oven.
My mother has rituals to all of the seasons. Its about this time of year that my mom likes to throw open the windows wide open to the chilly but delicious breezes of a Wisconsin fall day. She cleans the house from top to bottom, washing and dusting and drenching in Lysol all of those tiny corners and tucked away places like under the couch cushions and along the base-boards of every room.
In short, every place I never bother to clean as an adult but still feel guilty about not cleaning at least once a month.
Anyways, she cleans the whole house until it sparkles. She might paint and re-decorate a room or two if she’s feeling extra bored. She airs everything out in the fresh breezes so the whole house feels cool, clean, and completely refreshed, ready for the long winter ahead.
Then, over the course of a week or so, the house undergoes a transformation.
The bright summery white hand towels with blue and green trims in the bathrooms are replaced by luxuriously soft towels in shades of red, gold and a tawny brown.
The candles and scented oils take a scented turn and head for the pines.
Arrangements of red and orange leaves, golden sprays of branches and pine cones suddenly grace the tops of cabinets and dressers.
And all of a sudden the freezer is filled with apple pies made from the delicious Duchie apples that grow almost wild now on my grandfather’s farm. The pies nestle in close next to plump red bags filled with her amazing tomato sauce. Oh and all sorts of other deliciousness.
I remember coming home from school years ago and sitting on one of our squeaky kitchen stools, feeling the cold breeze waft in. Even after a long day working at the hospital or cleaning the house, my mom would always have something toasty and delicious to pull out of the oven for a pre-dinner snack. She’d stir something on the stove and I’d tell her about my teachers for the year, the plans for Friday night football game tail-gating with my friends in the parking lot of our tiny high school.
My fingers would be cold by the time I’d finished, but when I’d head upstairs to change out of my school clothes I’d always pause at the top and breath deep. Breathing in all of those smells of fall and clean and home all at once.
At moments like that, I realized that you can be nostalgic for something even as you live through it. In those moments at the top of the stairs, caught up in the smells and the cool kiss of the breeze on my cheek, I always knew how lucky I was and how much I might miss those sensations someday.
Halfway around the world now, I’m in a place where the closest we get to Wisconsin’s fall colors are what I can picture in my mind and see in friend’s Facebook photographs.
But my mom and dad will be here in a few weeks on their first trip to Asia and the cool air at night has me restless in the same way my mom must also feel at this time of year.
And instead of lounging on the couch at night lately I find myself rearranging furniture, cleaning out the fridge and washing the filters in all of our air purifiers.
There’s freshly-baked dense chewy brown bread on our kitchen counter and some new candles on the coffee table that are about as close to cinnamon and pumpkin pie-scented candles as I can find here.
The holiday hand towels are in my cart on Amazon and just waiting for me to pull the trigger and unleash a whole happy mess of festive cheer and celebration.
Tonight the air was clearer than normal and Chris and I went for a walk in our pajamas. It reminded me of our own fall traditions. Our hikes in the Shenandoah Mountains. The nights we’d throw open the windows and wake up in the morning deliciously cozy in our warm bed, an island of warmth in a chilly, sun-lit room. Our long walks at night, raspberry picking at Butler’s farm and jam making adventures. Fall baking and that trip to Whole Foods to pick up a bag of ridiculously cinnamon-scented pine cones to last the whole season.
And I feel grateful and wistful and nostalgic all at the same time. I miss the fall breezes, I miss those distinctly Americana moments of crunchy fall leaves and Halloween candy advertisements in the middle of the tiny town paper.
But I’m grateful too, grateful to be seeing my parents in a few weeks, grateful for the experiences we have here, how much closer we’ve grown to one another because of them. Every passing season we build more of our own traditions, our own family legacy, our own quiet plans.
This may not be the season I remember and loved as a kid and there may be more ma la in our spice mix than nutmeg, but it’s still fall, its still a time for cleaning house and bundling up, stocking the pantry and lighting candles.
Happy Fall Y’all. Can’t wait to share some of my baking and holiday party plans as we live it up autumnally in the ‘du.