If we trust the poets on this, and I see no reason we shouldn’t, autumn is the season in which we remember summer.
It’s a time for nostalgia, for looking back on warmer and fuzzier times, when the sky was bright blue, Felix Hernandez was throwing hard, and national parks were, you know, open.
All sorts of silliness abound in summer, when young women strut their stuff and old men throw Frisbees even through they’ve had rotator cuff surgery already. It’s fun to remember summer.
But this is just a coping mechanism, a way to accept gray skies in stride. For yours truly at least, Octobers are what I remember. October is when things happen.
October is my personal poetry, all jumbled together with turning leaves and the smell of wood stoves. October is perfect for procrastinators like me, a last chance to do what I should have done in June.
This might involve my leaky roof and it might not. I’m shooting for poetry here.
It was in early October, 30 years ago, that my wife and I trudged up I-5 into the Pacific Northwest, pulling a small trailer and digging small change out of seat cushions to pay for gas.
We were newly married and fresh out of college, where we’d attempted to stay as long as they let us. The future was scary back then, as I recall, but it was the future that we found.
And it was in October – in fact, it was this very week – that I began writing this column, a dozen years ago.
I had the idea that public discourse on the local level, as fascinating as zoning issues can be, might benefit from the perspective of an unnatural tool user, a man intimidated by his own children and even minor plumbing problems, a man who worked from home and thus mostly interacted with a dog who rarely, if ever, actually spoke.
A man who was, if I’m doing the math correctly, 43 years old, which I don’t believe either.
But I was looking for an analogy recently, and I finally found it here in my October memories. I’m surprised it took me so long. That’s what I get for reading poetry.
I was seeking an analogy because I felt foolish. I went to Austin recently to be with my daughter and her husband as they approached her due date, the birth of my first grandchild.
I went because I’m the one with the flexible schedule, the one who can work from anywhere with a decent broadband connection. I went as a representative from the home office, a sample from this side of the family tree, and we negotiated over flights and dates before settling on a time frame that seemed perfect.
With luck, I’d get there a few days before she went into labor, and then be around to lend a hand during those first hectic days.
And while I was preparing to leave, some worrisome issues with blood pressure made things look even more imminent. I wouldn’t have been surprised to step off the plane at the Austin airport and get a text message telling me to grab a cab and head for the hospital. Things were moving quickly.
But babies are curious creatures, with their own calendars.
The blood pressure returned to normal, and I spent a pretty glorious 10 days in Texas, enjoying the sun and warmth, taking long, sweaty hikes along the Colorado River, baking dozens of cookies, eating some amazing tacos, and relaxing in the company of these two young people about to have an adventure.
There just wasn’t a baby at the end of my trip. This happens, things are fine, but my return flight approached and I had to make a decision.
I could have postponed, but late babies are nothing new and I could have ended up with most of a month spent away from my leaky roof, so I headed home with plans to return soon. We were all fine with that, but it felt dumb. Foolish, as I said.
And then I remembered the late summer of 1995. The summer that the Seattle Mariners saved baseball, coming from 12 games back in early August to catch the Angels.
The summer that everyone talked about baseball, everyone listened to the radio, everyone left the TV tuned to the games and didn’t leave for long.
It was a true, honest-to-goodness playoff chase, culminating in an October playoff game that sent the Ms eventually into a championship series, and even though they didn’t make it, I didn’t mind at all.
The chase was the thing, anticipation and wonder and hope all rolled up into something that felt suspiciously like a miracle.
So there’s my analogy. Anticipation, wonder and hope.
Be present at the birth of your child, teach her about numbers and letters, show her how to ride a bike and drive a car, take her Disneyland and attend choir concerts, watch her get married to a good man, and then gaze across the room as she gasps and then places her hand on her belly, feeling life move.
All rolled up into a miracle, and even though I’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to see this baby, I wouldn’t have missed the chase for anything.
There was just something about sensing the future, seeing it, waiting for it, that feels less like foolishness and more like poetry.