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When Michael Jackson died, I found out from Facebook. When President Obama gave his health care speech, I was able to gauge the general reaction by everyone’s Facebook statuses. Ditto when Kanye West made an ass out of himself at the VMAs.
And now, Facebook tells me that something called “autumn” is happening all around the country. I have friends in New York and Missouri and Ohio who post things like “Kim is raking leaves!” and “Charles is eating some pumpkin-spice cupcakes!” and “Hannah is pumped for sweater weather and apple cider!” and “Mike loves the smell of wood smoke on a chilly morning!”
Here? I woke up yesterday and said, “Huh. October already?” while drinking my iced coffee and looking for my flip-flops.
The season officially changes, the calendar page flips forward, pumpkins and cranberries appear at the store. But nothing else is noticeably different. I’m not scrambling to find my sweatshirts or itching to roast a turkey.
Autumn seems to be practically everyone’s favorite season, and I guess we do kind of get gypped down here, but that’s a trade I will gladly make. I’m happy to deal with running the air conditioner until Thanksgiving if it means I won’t be scraping an inch of ice off of my windshield in 13 degree weather in January.
The first autumn I experienced in Missouri started out breathtaking –– the leaves were vivid red and dusky orange and bright yellow against a chilly blue sky, colors I’d never before seen on trees down here in the land of unremitting green. The days were refreshingly cool, the nights invigoratingly brisk. Jamie and I were 18 and crazy stupid in love, and we took long walks through the woods, holding hands and marveling at the leaves, and then we cuddled under blankets and drank hot chocolate and ate caramel apples in my dorm room. I had a work-study job at an elementary school, and every day I would read a book called Fresh Fall Leaves at least 10 times to the 10 children I worked with. I loved that book. I loved those kids. Life was beautiful. Life was amazing. I loved autumn.
But by mid-November, it was over. By mid-November, those gorgeous leaves were all crumbly and brown in the gutters, and the sky was a discouraging shade of gray that never seemed to let up. It was too cold to walk in the woods. It was too cold to do anything. I was sick of apples, I was sick of hot chocolate, and I was especially sick of stupid Fresh Fall Leaves.
I hated autumn because it lied to me. It was seductively beautiful, and then it turned on me. And every year after that, I just wanted autumn to hurry up and turn into winter so that winter could hurry up and get over.
Now that I’m back where we have Hot and Not-So-Hot, as opposed to four actual well-defined seasons, now that I don’t spend all year living in fear of winter, I do occasionally miss those chilly mornings. I miss the smell of wood smoke. I miss sweaters and raking leaves and apple cider. I definitely miss pumpkin-spice cupcakes. Autumn without winter fast on its heels sounds pleasant.
But in a few months, when I read on Facebook “Kim is snowed in!” and “Charles has frostbite from shoveling snow!” and “Hannah’s wishing she had a thicker coat because it’s -3 outside!” and “Mike is huddled under 18 blankets because his heater is broken again!” I will know that New Orleans is the perfect place for me.