O Lord, I don’t need a newsflash to realize I’m past the green-leaf season of my life. I blossom only in ways and places I don’t want to. But thank You that our autumn years do not have to be blah. OMG,really? These can hold the richest colors of our lives?
O Lord, it’s that time of year in Indiana when summer and Indian summer engage in a polite tug of war. Windows open or shut? Air conditioning or heat? Ceiling fan or extra blankets? Though when it comes to falling temperatures, OMG, the seasons might prove more polite than we are.
On September days, I quadruple travel time, waiting behind school buses. The route doesn’t matter. My car is a bus magnet.
I’m never bored, though. A school bus at a stoplight entertains me more than Animal Planet.
I recall the first year Bus Number 3’s doors flapped open, when I scaled a steep stairway in early steps toward an education. I stopped dead at the top, nearly sending older brother Ned flopping backward.
The bus driver, Mr. Feeney, resembled a giant frog wearing a flannel shirt. Would he catch flies?
Instead, he nodded a silent greeting. When I dropped into a seat beside Ned, Mr. Feeney grunted, and my brother squawked. I was sitting on the boys’ side! I had violated The Aisle.
Why didn’t they color the girls’ side pink? I shrank into the seat behind Mr. Feeney. To my joy, a classmate soon joined me. Mary Jo and I sat there the remainder of the year. Why? With autumn’s arrival, the heater baked our ankles like apples.
Mr. Feeney often checked his big rearview mirror, from which he monitored the western hemisphere. He controlled our bus through the radio. When crowd noise reached 747-landing levels, he turned off “A Summer Place” or “Alley-Oop” or “Purple People Eater.”
Perhaps we six-year-olds found his big, red-and-black-checkered back comforting. Wiggly minnows in an ocean of big kids, we rode with teenagers big as God and my daddy.
Teen girls pushed cancanned skirts through narrow aisles. But these lost their goddess standing when I discovered their guy obsession. Didn’t they know about boy cooties? Still, I learned a whole new set of life skills, including “going steady,” by observing romance negotiations across The Aisle
JIMMY’S FRIEND: Brenda, do you like Jimmy?
(BRENDA hugs the window and stares at cows.)
BRENDA’S FRIEND: She thinks he’s dreamy!
(Snickers and catcalls from the boys’ side. JIMMY punches his FRIENDS.)
(BRENDA’S FRIENDS giggle for 60 minutes straight.)
Undignified, almost indecent. Why didn’t Mr. Feeney do something?
After a girl bagged her male prey, official rules required she bring angora yarn aboard and wrap her prize: the boy’s ring. Those big, sparkly high school rings beat Cracker Jack® prizes every time.
Once, a lovesick couple sat together. The universe tilted. Mr. Feeney began to pull over, frightening the guilty parties into desperate dives back across The Aisle.
Now, waiting behind buses, I wonder if these children will follow one 50 years hence. No. By then, mothers will beam their kids to first grade.
At times, I wish I hadn’t spent hours riding school buses.
But think of all the education I would have missed.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Did you ride a school bus as a kid?
O Lord, You know that as a tall middle-schooler, I sneaked Mom’s coffee, trying to stunt my growth. Gag! It tasted awful! Yet decades later, a steaming mug of coffee blesses my day. OMG, maybe Your gifts to us are often an acquired taste?
“You initiated an end-of-the-season campout,” my husband insisted. “To celebrate your completing a novel.”
Crazy. I would never—
Wait. After months in the writers’ cave, I do recall blurting something about an October campout.
Exactly what a weary writer needed — extra laundry. Debates whether to pack heavy coats or light. How could I jam this carrot bag into the cooler? (Though the cheesecake fit fine.)
All for a campout in October, when Mother Nature frequently forgets to take her Prozac.
What word-fogged madness had seized me?
Hubby should have conducted an intervention: “Let’s go to a ritzy hotel where they golf cart you to the hot tub.”
Instead, he gleefully hooked up the camper and condemned me to a weekend in the wilds.
The campground teemed with campers struck with similar insanity, determined to experience one final outdoor inconvenience. Perhaps they’d all written books, too, and succumbed to brain disappearance?
Adults, as well as kids, competed in a never-ending, kamikaze bike race around the campground. For pedestrians on hasty nighttime hikes to restrooms, a headless horseman could strike no terror so profound as that caused by breakneck night riders with glow-in-the-dark decals.
Better to stay by the campfire, especially as temperatures dipped to 39 degrees.
Fall camping does have positives. With no devices or cell phone service, we retired early. Once my foggy mind realized a nighttime noise wasn’t a hair dryer left on, but the camper’s heater, we spent snuggly nights in sleeping bags.
Mornings, we consumed yummy breakfasts with enough cholesterol to supply the state.
No global warming occurred, so we couldn’t swim or kayak. We left bike rides to the kamikaze crazies. But we could hike.
We strolled through gorgeous woods, stopping to admire lakes, trees, and tough little flowers that braved autumn’s temperatures. Unable to translate bird language, we assumed a fervent chorus of welcome. Along with soaring hawks and eagles, even buzzards appeared graceful. We encountered a beaver lodge and a gobbling flock of wild turkeys.
Why, on these jaunts, do we persist in seeking deer? I’ve seen them in neighbors’ yards. Deer devour my tulips and tomatoes, yet we found this park quest entertaining — also part of the insanity.
If hikes cause rubber legs and aching feet, they also inspire the best naps ever taken by humankind.
We found ourselves lingering that last, lovely afternoon, breaking down camp at the last minute.
Arriving at home, we hauled in suitcases. Bags of smoky, dirty clothes. The cooler, with its highly questionable contents.
We recovered our Internet. Tons of emails awaited us. Tons of work.
What madness possessed us to come home?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you like fall campouts?
O Lord, You know that for millennia, singers and writers have celebrated Your moon’s romantic beauty. Others, though, likened it to cheese, croissants, and cookies. 1950s singer Dean Martin even viewed the moon as a “big pizza pie.” OMG, it’s difficult for a dieter to stay starry-eyed when her stomach’s growling. …
Nobody feels neutral about autumn’s advent. Mention fall, and you trigger one of two reactions:
“No-o-o-o-o (weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth)!”
Or, “Ye-e-s-s-s (double fist pump)!”
The first response typifies skinny beach bums and bunnies who evolved without sweat glands. They play tennis on boiling blacktop and Frisbee on 500-degree sand. My scientific theory: summer people originally lived on the sun, but inexplicably migrated to the Midwest a million years ago. They’ve complained about fall ever since.
Perhaps you’ve deduced that I support the second view? Below, I’ve listed my Top 10 reasons for loving the harvest season:
Steve – At a Labor Day picnic 67 years ago, my husband’s 20-year-old mother wondered if the holiday would prove prophetic — she thought she was going into labor. However, the excitement was traced to a mole digging holes under her blanket. Hubby, who still takes his good old sweet time, appeared two weeks later. I’m glad he did.
Layers – No more bathing suits! Hurrah!
Cozy reading – Sure, beach books introduce us to new imaginary friends and take us to faraway places. But during fall, I can roll up in a throw like a giant burrito and read with equal enjoyment — with no sand in my pants.
Apple everything – Orchard apples taste as if they grew in fruit heaven. They bless us with bubbling apple pie, chunky homemade applesauce and hot, cinnamon-y cider. Mmm.
Comfort food – During summer, Congress should declare cooking illegal. But fall brings urges to fill the house with delicious fragrances: chili and cornbread on cold Saturday nights. Chicken and noodles for Sunday dinner. Golden loaves of bread that smell like love as they bake. Even hot coffee tastes better during fall. (I never could embrace iced coffee. Some things are just wrong.)
Squirrels – I like to watch them work. I like to watch anybody work but me.
Sports – I like to watch football and playoff baseball. I like to watch anybody exercise but me.
Weather – A fall day’s air smells fresh as if God just invented it. Often, autumn brings the only true-blue blue skies we see in Indiana. Even the most addicted summer junkie can’t deny that fall offers great snuggle weather.
Nature – Trees, clad in their best fall-rainbow finery, leave me breathless. Other scene-stealers: morning glories swathe fences with royal blue and ruby blossoms. Chrysanthemums bloom in jewel colors. Cornstalks rustle with gentle gossip about weather changes. Orange pumpkins like harvest moons nestle among brown vines. Ugly brown milkweed pods erupt with white, airy adventures.
Besides all this, we don’t have to weed or mow the grass this weekend.
What’s not to love?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What is one of your Top 10 reasons for loving the harvest season?
Today, little Apple lovers might expect a Macintosh laptop
on an alphabet book’s first page. In 1959, however, technology never entered my mind.
Instead, I eyed the luscious red fruit on my teacher’s desk. I focused on
bites, not bytes.
I savored the school lunch’s apple crisp — until Joey
Bump told me the topping consisted of fried ants.
Smart guy. He doubled his apple crisp intake.
Ants notwithstanding, I come from a long line of apple lovers.
Every autumn Dad bought bushels of fragrant fruit at a nearby orchard. He peeled
an apple with a surgeon’s precision, dangling the single long red curl, then sliced
it into white circles whose dark seeds God had arranged in a flower pattern. A
boy during the Depression, Dad scoured the woods for fruit — for anything — to
nourish his scrawny frame. Forever, he would regard apples as a cause for
Whenever we visited my Louisiana grandparents, Dad bought
Grandma bags of apples, fruit too expensive to frequent their black-eyed
peas/turnip greens/corn bread diet. My four siblings and I waited for Grandma
The apples vanished within seconds, never to reappear — while
we were there, anyway.
Dad often surprised Grandma, driving all night from
Indiana to visit. Once, he brought four-year-old Kenny, whom Grandma hadn’t
seen for a year. Kenny and Dad dozed in his truck until they smelled bacon’s tantalizing
fragrance. Dad’s resolve wavered. Did he dare rile his mother and risk losing a
Dad debated only a moment. Handing Kenny a bag of apples,
he pulled my brother’s cap over his eyes and sent him to Grandma’s door. Hunkering
down in the truck, Dad watched apple drama unfold.
At Kenny’s knock, Grandma appeared. “Child, what are you
doing here at this hour?” She showed no sign of recognizing Kenny. “Where’s
your mama? Your daddy?” She cast a wrathful eye at the truck.
When Kenny offered her the apples for a quarter, Grandma suffered
pangs of conscience. How could she take advantage of this baby-child?
But the bargain apples proved too much.
Grandma retrieved a quarter from her old money sock.
As she handed it to Kenny, he tilted his head back. “Hi,
Dad strode to the porch, wearing a huge grin.
Grandma laughed and cried. When her voice returned, she said
her 35-year-old son needed a good licking. How could such a bad apple turn out
to be the only preacher in the family?
Grandma hugged Kenny, then welcomed him and his prodigal
daddy, stuffing them with eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy.
But no apples. The bag already had found a new home — under
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite