A northerly blast rattles the windows and threatens the few leaves still stubbornly clinging to our apple tree. The russet and amber brilliance of autumn is fading fast.
I can’t stop the days from growing darker any more than I can stop my children from growing up.
Two weeks ago, my third born got his driver license. Zack flashed me a grin and two thumbs up as he walked into the waiting area at the Department of Licensing, after completing his drive. “Way to go!” I said, and gave him a high-five.
I’ve learned the hard way not to jump up and give a new driver a hug and a kiss – in public, anyway.
And then he was off on his first solo drive. Amazingly, though I’ve traveled this path twice before, I’d already forgotten the anxious feeling of waiting for a novice driver to return home.
Zack made it back and then offered to take his younger brother to the store. I took a deep breath, nodded and let them walk out the door. I really wanted to follow them down the driveway, shouting instructions and helpful advice. Instead, I busied myself baking cookies and tried not to look out the window or watch the clock.
When they returned, Sam gave a glowing report of Zack’s driving skills. “He didn’t scare me,” he said.
He’s quite an expert, having been a passenger on Ethan and Alex’s maiden voyages. His report on their driving? “Scary!”
Sam too, is in a season of change. Last week he informed me that he had no pants. “How can you have no pants?” I asked. “I just bought you jeans before school started.”
“They don’t fit anymore,” he said with a shrug.
Sure enough, he’d already outgrown them.
Sam also informed me that he’d outgrown trick-or-treating. “I’d rather stay home and watch scary movies with dad, and hand out candy to the kids,” he said.
He’s 12. I’m pretty sure he’s still considered a kid. At the last minute, the lure of candy prompted a change of heart. He decked himself out as roadkill, and off he went.
Other holidays will be different this year, too. My father-in-law died suddenly in July. Nothing delighted him more than having all of his children and grandchildren gathered around the table. His absence is proving to be just as big as his presence always was.
I’m not a fan of change. I enjoy traditions, routines, rituals, and familiar faces. Autumn is my favorite season, and I’m always loath to let it go.
That’s why Sunday, I was thrilled to wake up and find Saturday’s snow had disappeared. Hurriedly, I laced up my walking shoes and braved the chill wind. I scuffed through soggy maple leaves and dodged piles of pine needles, blissfully soaking up the November sun.
As I walked it occurred to me that perhaps the very reason I so enjoy these sunny autumn afternoons is because I know they don’t last long.
When I got home, I scooped Sam into a big hug. The top of his head barely fits under my chin. I held him tightly, savoring the feel of him in my arms until he squirmed away.
Loved ones don’t live forever.
Often, the best we can do is savor the small shards of brilliant joy that emerge even in the midst of change.