You figure out pretty quickly that things here don’t look like they should.
It starts with one of the first lessons they give you in school. Here are the four seasons, the teacher says, turning to a page that shows pictures of winter, spring, summer and fall.
Before long we can explain that summer is when the sun shines, winter is the season of snowmen with carrot noses, spring has a bunch of rain and flowers, and fall is when the air gets cool and leaves turn hues you’d pick to color fire — red and orange, two or three oranges if you are lucky.
This knowledge will earn an A+ even though really it is about half true. And that’s at best. Here spring unfolds as it should about fifty percent of the time, though if you talk to the farmers they’ll tell you there’s never really bunches of rain. In Texas the only season we really nail is summer.
Some of you highly evolved creatures out there have shaken off these youthful lessons by now. You’ve lived a little (or a lot, you lucky dogs), and you’ve seen how the world really works. The discrepancies you’ve noted you’ve accepted and come to peace with. Kumbaya and namaste and stuff to you. Because the rest of us are still trapped in the dream, online shopping for fall boots even while our feet are still sweating in flip-flops.
I have friends who will swear up and down that fall is their favorite season.
“It isn’t really a season,” I try suggesting to them, gently. “But you could say it’s your favorite week.”
They’ll just stare at me, and even though their smiles don’t change shape, the friendliness of the expression will somehow have escaped, maybe through a tiny, almost invisible gap in the teeth.
“Fall is fall,” one of them said to me once. “Whether it feels like it or not.”
And with that I have to agree, because the alternative is to go without fall altogether. I’d rather get sweaty shopping for a pumpkin than go without. Of course I want the air to be crisp. I want to drink hot cider out of a mug instead of from a chilled bottle by the pool. I want to be able to put on a sweater and go anywhere, instead of directly to the nearest AC vent. I want, most of all, for my children ask me what color the leaves are, so I can walk to the window, look outside and answer truthfully, “All the colors of fire. They are gorgeous, come see.” And the truth is that as long as we don’t blink in late October, we can have all these things.
It reminds me of a woman I worked with a long time ago in Dallas. Her name was Autumn, and every time we were in a meeting together I would think how amazing it was that her name fit her so well. Autumn was never on time, not once. But when she arrived at meetings she always brought an idea that would blow everyone away. Did she become like the season autumn, I would wonder, or was that just a really lucky guess by her parents?
For now all we can do is wait patiently for the game changer to arrive. When the winds shift we have to be ready to seize the day. As the highly evolved creatures would tell us, you never know when one day might be all you get. I’m still trapped in the dream, I give us a week.