Autumn Renewal

September 9, 2008 § 4 Comments

Trick or Treat Bag Smell is unique and complex.  Like a cheap, pinkish wine, it swirls together the rich scents of chocolate, rock-hard, starch dusted bubblegum, vanilla and artificial fruit.  Had I the means or the gumption to do so, I’d attempt a tween focused eau du parfum reminiscent of this fragrance which I’ve found impossible to duplicate.

Until this week.

Our office has a candy drawer, replenished every Monday with fun sized candy bars, gum, mints, fruit chews and smarties.  Smarties, I’ve decided, are the key.  I opened it on Tuesday, having received word from my mole on the first floor that the mini Twix were disappearing at an unprecedented pace.  Indeed I got the last one, but not before drinking in that sweet smelling wormhole to Autumns past.

To me, Autumn is truly the season of renewal.  Conversely, Spring is the season of mud and water damage.  It is Autumn that offers children around the world* a chance to make a grand and dramatic change on their first day of school.  In Autumn the notebooks are clean, bright white, college ruled and perhaps organized by color with a doodle free, color coordinated folder (green=science, yellow=math, red=history, blue=english).  In Autumn you can try out for the team again, and fail because your knee popped RIGHT OUT OF THE SOCKET during the first round of the Bump,Set,Spike drill.  In Autumn you can return to school after a BIG SUMMER MAKEOVER.  BIG SUMMER MAKEOVER GUYS!  BIG.  SUMMER.  MAKEOVER.

Beginning in seventh grade and continuing pretty much to this day, I’ve dreamed hard and planned long to have a successful BIG SUMMER MAKEOVER.  

We tried it once, my mom and I.  Let me take you back to the summer of ’85.  I had recently convinced my opthamologist to prescribe contact lenses since I was planning on becoming a movie star after reaching as far as the call backs for the Nazareth College Youth Theatre program.  Having gotten rid of my clear acrylic glasses, I decided it was time I started selecting my own school clothes.  After all, I was almost 13, and my JC Penney corduroy blazers and plaid ascots weren’t going to fly in eighth grade.  My mother (probably desperate to lose the Mom of Penfield’s Biggest Nerd title) allowed for a short haircut with a tight perm, and on the first day of school, I took a deep breath and stepped into black stirrup pants with white Keds and a fashionably oversized sweatshirt with multicolored neon shapes all over it.  In the blink of an eye, the truth was out.  I was one trendy son of a bitch.

The problem was that my hair was still the color of a cardboard box.  The Keds gave me a wicked case of Lichen Planus, I still had a voice that sounded like someone had kicked my adenoids into submission, I still had braces and I still weighed 103 when Kristen and Lauren weighed 90, a fact I’ll remember on my deathbed, because the gym teacher yelled the statistics across the gym to the woman recording them five hundred yards away.  I was still outside of the inner circle, being artsy instead of athletic.  I made poor choices that kept me out…like instead of making the cool tote bag out of canvas in sewing class, I decided to make a giant denim ski bag eight feet long.  Instead of sculpting a kitty or a tree in art class, I made a giant molar.  Don’t mistake this innovation for talent.  I wasn’t even artsy enough to be allowed into the tight knit OUTER circle of ‘creative individuals’.  I was a weird little slice of the population where all the venn diagram circles meet…just floating on the edges of everybody.  And still, and this cuts to the quick, even with contacts and short hair cut, Jim Bacon never spoke to me.


So now i used Fall as a springboard for other makeovers (although shopping for new clothes and getting a fresh haircut is best done in September).  Much to everyone’s joy, Autumn is when I like to clean my house.  I get rid of the dust, throw out the clutter.  In Fall I refeather the nest, making everything cushier, softer, I light the house with candles, I use potpourri, I buy new linens in creamy colors.  I try again to become organized in Autumn, just like back in school.  Whether it’s a fresh commitment to coupon clipping, planning a day to make casseroles and freeze them just like Family Circle says I should, or filling in letters A-F in a brand new address book, I continually live up to my mantra from Bart Simpson:

I can’t promise I’ll try.  But I’ll try to try.

Most of all, I get the itch to entertain in the Fall.  That could be because it’s my ‘birthday season’, or because growing up my family always held a Harvest Festival, inviting the whole family to a day long celebration of…well, being a family.  It could be because I love gathering up folks for a hayride, or to pick out a pumpkin or because I love trick or treating. But I also love Thanksgiving.  

Back before everyone we knew was married and having kids, we were just a small tribe of new actors in the city, working retail, unable to leave for the holidays.  Brian and I were the ‘old married couple’ with nice dishes and a grown up apartment, and we decided to host “Homeless Thanksgiving”, for people who weren’t going to have a cozy day of football and cranberries and turkey and naps.  I made everything from scratch, right down to the pea salad, a tradition from Grandmas house.  No one had to dress up, and after dinner I told everyone to feel free to stay as long as they liked, providing floor space and pillows for the luscious full belly snoozes that take over around four o’clock.  I secretly hoped for overnight guests so I could really feel like a content and fattened mother hen.  We only hosted two or three Thanksgivings as people began to have families of their own, to find more ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving celebrations, and I went back to the supporting cast, bring pies and baked onions to my aunt’s house.  

It was getting that feeling that was my true big makeover.  I discovered who I was, what I was meant to be.  I found my calling, even though it’s not profitable or innovative or even terribly surprising.  The truth is, I want to bring people in from the cold and make them warm.  I want to be the person who notices you when no one else will.  Perhaps it’s because I have that ability now, to BE the inner circle that others seek, to open my doors to the people who are lonely, sad, confused.  I’ve been on both sides of awkward loneliness, and Lord knows I want to alleviate it.  Let me blunt – I want to give you homemade Chex Mix.  And everyone knows that it tastes best in the Fall.


*no research whatsoever was done in the writing of this entry


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§ 4 Responses to Autumn Renewal

  • Meredith says:

    This is exactly what your friendship feels like to me – like someone brought me in from the cold. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we would have been awesome nerd friends in grade school. But I’m totally cool with being awesome nerd friends as adults – we can drive now and have credit.

    I really wish I could see the ski bag and giant molar.

  • donkeyinawhitecoat says:

    I don’t think I ever finished the ski bag, but I couldn’t even pick up a cool denim. i bought a really dark blue denim that was pin striped. So I looked like I was making an athletic bag out of a business suit.

    And really, when you’re getting ready to go skiing, a DENIM bag is the way to go.

  • Ali says:

    J. I’m glad you’ve discovered your calling. I’m still trying to find mine. The Thanskgivings I’ve spent with you and Brian were some of the most memorable in my life. I WAS home.

  • Ann says:

    The Giant Molar would have made you and I friends in one second flat.

    And to be able to boil down what makes you whole is a beautiful thing and also a great person. On the darker days,
    remember that at your core you want to make people feel
    warm. That is a wonderful thing my friend.

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