Chuck Brooks' column: The most wonderful time of year
It’s officially autumn. As much as I love the summer months, I love this time of the year more. That’s a mighty statement for me to make. It’s true. These next three months are my favorite months every year.
One of my fondest memories connected with fall comes from my elementary school days. I remember walking to St. Patrick’s. We lived about eight blocks from my school. I often walked with a friend or two, and we would walk on the area between the sidewalk and the street. It seemed that’s where all the leaves would gather. Even now, I can hear that sound of the crispy leaves under foot. It has as much appeal to me as car tires on gravel. Two sounds I love.
One art activity the nuns had us do once was to bring to class at least one leaf, intact, that had fallen to the ground. We then placed tracing paper or wax paper or something unusual on top of the leaf, and then we took our crayon and, using the length of the crayon, simply rolled it back and forth over the leaf until the very pattern of the leaf appeared on the piece of paper. I was awestruck with the final product. Then we filled in the leaf’s image with the proper autumnal colors. For me, obviously, it was a magical moment.
An-other memory I have from this time of the year is, of course, Homecoming at the high school. For me, everything about Homecoming was incredible. The weather provided the proper chill in the air. The wind was with us on the day of the parade as well as the game that evening, turning a pile of gathered leaves on someone’s property into a mini-tornado of color. Don’t forget the smell. Fall brought with it the smell of burning wood, and there was always plenty of that each Homecoming with the school bonfire. Thou thinkest I romanticize the season?
I waited three-plus years before heading to college, but in the meantime, I helped open a new grocery store in my hometown as its dairy and frozen food manager. The produce manager was also fresh out of high school, and we became best buds in those early months. One fall day we shared a day off, so we decided to enjoy Mother Nature’s offering of beauty and splendor, and we traveled to The House On The Rock near Madison. It’s situated in the woods. I don’t remember the house as vividly as I remember the smell that day in the house’s setting. My senses were having a smorgasbord of experiences, and it was a perfect weather day. I recall that trip each year.
I finally arrived at the decision to head to college. Stocking milk and ice cream was no longer working for me. This was the pinnacle of my fall connections. Many of you would agree that college is perhaps the best time of a person’s life. We were out from under the reign of the parents, yet totally aware if we screwed up, they were our safety net. The formula college + fall always = happiness to me. I remember falls at school more than anything. It was too beautiful for words.
Despite the fact it’s weeks away, for me the season ends with Halloween. That holiday is autumn’s swan song for you see, on Nov. 1, I begin throwing in Christmas specials. Like I told you, these next three months are my favorite. As a small boy, Halloween in our neighborhood was a blast. Purposely walking through the season’s carnage on the lawns, racing from house to house, checking to see that friends didn’t get anything better than I did in my bag from each house.
There was always a bite to the air. Some homes even handed out warm apple cider. I guess we were a trusting society in those days.
The flipside to fall, however, is I’m more emotionally vulnerable during this time of the year than any other. I have no idea why. Anything that ever happened in my life that I associate with sadness never came during fall. I don’t think it’s because Mother Nature is putting everything to bed for a few months either. I really don’t mind the barren trees and the lack of green. Until January, that is. I just know I’m susceptible to more bouts with tears. It doesn’t take much. It’s not like a Packer or Badger loss is bringing me to violent fits of weeping, but if I watch a dramatic moment in a movie or show, it might all be over for me right then and there.
Fall reminds me of my younger days. The season always makes me smile. And, crumble at times. I hope I’ve helped you recall a connection or two you have to the season as well.
Gather ye colors while ye may.