Fall is my favorite time of year. In South Dakota, the seasons change like traffic lights, from green to gold to red. There isn’t any in between; one day it’s so hot your tank top feels too thick, the next, you can’t imagine why you didn’t break out the fuzzy coat. The change became clear smack dab in the middle of last week when I was dropping off the kids at school. “What? Why didn’t you grab your jacket? What were you thinking?” Of course I was only vocalizing my own guilt at not remembering for them. In the chaos that is school mornings, forgetting to breathe seems possible.
That a.m. hustle weaves its way into the crisp days of autumn; there are new, important things to do. Signing planners, practicing instruments, packing lunches—they become a numbered list I check off one day at a time. Yes, we arrived at the dance studio and bought new tap shoes. Check! The girls can now proceed to learn an art form they will thank me for when they go off to Broadway. Watching from the window, I can feel the palpable excitement in their shuffle-ball-changes.
In my college classes, too, I feel the rush of enthusiasm from my students, and I suddenly remember why I teach. Despite what others might say about this generation, my students find new ways to surprise me with their excitement and compassion every day, like my first day of class.
For the first time in ten years, I am teaching at a new school. I don’t know my way around, and the campus is like a maze of Winchester Mansion staircases. I go into my first classroom, and being in an old building, it is small and claustrophobic. But I have twenty-five smiling faces staring at me. I will be okay. Then I go to turn on the computer, nothing. I can’t even get the login screen to appear, and looking around the room, I notice there isn’t a clock in sight. How will I be able to tell when my fifty minutes are up? Of course I don’t wear a watch, and my phone? Well, that’s somewhere in my office halfway across campus. But if I just have a marker, I can write on the board. With a marker in my hand, I am invincible. I look down the length of the whiteboard tray: nothing. The marker genie must have confiscated them. At this point, it’s senseless to play it cool because the students know something is amiss, and well, I’ve never been very good at playing it cool anyway. I admit it is my first day, a confession that could turn dangerous in a room full of people who view me as an authority.
After class, as I trudged down a staircase that I hoped led outside, a couple of girls came up to me and asked why I had switched schools and how old were my kids. It was nothing, really, just polite conversation. But it’s sometimes meaningless conversations like these that end up meaning a great deal. My step lighter now, I continued walking toward my office in the library, and as I did, I remembered. Like a memory ignited by a sight or sound or smell, it came back to me all at once: this is why I love the fall.
Tell me, readers, what is your favorite fall memory? I would love to hear!