By Marni Jameson
After a long Labor Day weekend spent visiting DC’s home town of Pittsburgh, where we attended his 40th high school reunion and toured assisted living facilities for his mom, who, by unanimous expert consensus, cannot safely live alone anymore, I was glad to get home and back to my perpetual state of denial.
All that focus on people getting older (not me!), and time going by, was as sobering as an IRS audit.
The next morning, while driving — and reassuring myself that I had time firmly under control — I stopped for a yellow school bus loading kids heading off to a new school year. Their parents, some with strollers, lurked in the shrubbery.
Then, I swung into a Starbucks where the smell of pumpkin-spiced latte hit me like the opening notes of Vivaldi’s Autumn. Later, while out walking Peapod, I noticed the air had changed. The heavy wet stultifying Florida heat had lifted like the lid off a cast-iron cauldron, and the air felt pleasantly fresh.
But instead of celebrating the fact that for the first time since May I could be outside without having my hair look like the business end of a broccoli stalk, I was feeling suddenly all — how does Barbra Streisand put it? — verklempt.
“What’s wrong with you?” I asked my overcome self.
“The seasons are changing. Life is going by!” I answered, my eyes welling.
“Stop the presses. We have breaking news! Time is passing!”
“You know, you really get on my nerves sometimes.” I kept walking and talking to myself. The crunch of leaves underfoot felt like heartache.
“Of course,” one side of me continued, “knowing you like I do, if you are ever going to regain your equilibrium, you’ll need to dive into your mosh pit of emotions and figure out what’s beneath all this.”
“I know what’s underneath it, you numbskull. Criminy! We’re on the back nine, you and I, minus the hot dog and lemonade stand. My parents are both gone; my nest is empty, and I’m crying when I see kids getting on a school bus. And sure, I’m not going to lie, it also bugs me that certain parts of my body that used to stay up by themselves don’t anymore. But this goes way beyond that.”
“Darlin’, your problem is that fall is here, no denying it, and the season so happens to correspond with your season in life.”
“Thank you, Dr. Freud. You can butt out now.”
“And it explains why the sight of a school bus, the smell of pumpkin spice, the crunch of leaves, and a change in the air altogether feel like a gut punch.”
“Fine! Okay! I’ll stop with the wistful wallowing.”
“It’s a wonderful life, right Jimmy Stewart?”
“And a wonderful time of year.”
If you’re like me, fall is a time for reflection. Best to embrace it. Here are 25 ways:
- Rake up a big pile of leaves and jump in them with your kids or dog.
- Hang an autumn wreath. (These from Etsy ( https://www.etsy.com/market/fall_wreath) will inspire you.)
- Line the stairs to your porch with pumpkins.
- Put big pots of mums on your patio.
- Turn leaves into compost or mulch. (To make composts, shred leaves, then add a layer of soil or grass clippings, and stir often, say my garden experts at Lowe’s. To make mulch, use an electric push mower to grind leaves, then add them to garden beds.)
- Plant bulbs, pointy side up, I learned the hard way.
- Toss throws over the chairs indoors and out.
- Make soup or chili.
- Spray pumpkins in soft shimmery metallic shades pf paint and place them on end tables.
- Seal drafty doors and windows with caulk, weather stripping, or clear film (easy to install with a blow dryer), and beef up insulation.
- Pack away your summer whites. Wear more plaid and corduroy.
- Make a centerpiece out of seasonal gourds, Indian corn, or pinecones. Mix in hurricane or mason jars filled with coffee beans, whole nuts, or acorns.
- Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans, if yours are the reversible type, so they turn clockwise, and push warm air down into the room.
- Sip hot cider.
- Go to a football game.
- Replace filters in your heating and air conditioning system, which will work harder and cost more to run if filters are dirty.
- Put a fire on and toast marshmallows.
- Put a scarecrow on the lawn.
- Bake apples.
- Change your smoke alarm batteries when you change your clocks. Use the extra “fall back” hour to add alarm protection, says Tom Russo, spokesman for First Alert, of Aurora, Ill. Homes should have one carbon monoxide alarm and one smoke alarm on every floor, and in or near every bedroom.
- Use more cinnamon.
- Close the outdoor kitchen. While you might get by not cleaning your grill between uses in the summer when you’re grilling often, don’t try it during grill hibernation season, says Jim Ginocchi, president of Coyote Outdoor Living, in Dallas. To avoid opening your grill next spring to the remains of last summer’s burgers, or the droppings of varmints that enjoyed them, thoroughly clean and properly store or cover your grill at the end of cookout season. Disconnect the propane tank (or other fuel source), and shut off the control valve.
- Get a pumpkin spice latte.
- Go back to school.
- Count your blessings.
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of two home and lifestyle books, and the newly released Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go (Sterling Publishing 2016). You may contact her through www.marnjameson.com.