I grew up in the heart of the Midwest, where October is the showiest month. To this day, when I close my eyes and think of October, I see an empty highway stretching before me and beyond it, a sweep of harvested fields backed by a flaming red, orange, and gold tree line, the colors so vibrant that they rival the best of sunsets.
When I think of October, I can almost feel the crisp afternoon air contrasting with the warmth of the sun under a brilliant blue sky.
When I think of October, I can just about smell the morning-damp scent of fallen leaves, reminiscent of school bus stops and the first days I see my breath leave my lips like a puff of smoke.
When I think of October, I think of Friday night football games under the lights spent bundled up in a hooded sweatshirt with a Styrofoam cup of hot cocoa cupped between my palms.
I cling to these images, this almost-perceptible sense of October. Where I live now, those Octobers seem far away. Yesterday it was ninety-three degrees, and I broke a sweat on my way out to the mailbox.
October in the Mid-South is still hot and rather dismal, at least some of the time. It’s a month that likes to tease, giving me a short string of cooler, blue-skied days and then submitting again to the insistent heat. Leaves begin to turn, but the trees are far less bold—it’s rare to see one wearing a cap of red leaves. Softer oranges and golds line the streets instead, as if autumn is welcomed oh-so-reluctantly. My daughters wear shorts and t-shirts under their Halloween costumes.
Every morning at sunrise in October, I open the front door and step out, cup of coffee in hand, to see what the air feels like. As my hand reaches out to grasp the doorknob, I pray silently for cold, for chill, for that damp smell to fill my nostrils. Most days I’m disappointed.
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