I made an observation tonight that simultaneously made me nostalgic and happy.
My son, Noah, who you see up there, asked me if we could go for a walk. Not to go to the park or to play football or what have you . . . the myriad of things that a little boy would normally want to do on a Sunday night after doing chores all weekend, but to go for a walk.
I told him we would, and even though by the time dinner was over and I still had two more loads of laundry and lunches to make and cookies to get in the oven, I had told him we would. So walk we did.
I hadn’t taken any of my kids on the trail I used over the summer. It’s a simple dirt trail that weaves its way about two blocks away from the subdivision where I live. I like it because there’s no traffic and it’s out of the way and nicely filled with gravel and there’s no worry of snakes, not too many bugs, no overgrowth, none of that. It’s fairly well maintained except for the owners who let their dogs do their business all over the trail. (never mind the signs and free bags supplied at the beginning and end of the trail. Don’t get me started)
Noah was really happy. Sam, Hannah, Abbi, none of them wanted to go but Noah was happy to have the opportunity to get out of the house and have some time with me. I was glad I’d done it because Noah had a horribly stressful year last year – not that we all didn’t. I love the little guy but I looked down and his fingers were beat up, the skin more than a little torn on the tops of his thumbs. When I asked what happened he told me:
“I get nervous and bite my fingernails.”
I was a bit concerned. Partially because my fingers are in almost the same shape. I looked at him and told him he didn’t need to be that stressed out or concerned. I want him to be able to look to me or his teachers when he’s stressed out. At nine years old you shouldn’t be that nervous that you’re chewing on your fingers. He looked a bit embarrassed so I showed him my fingers and said “I’m not mad at you, kiddo. I have the same problem.”
I told him we would do this together . . . I’d stop and he should too. “It’s hard, Dad, it’s a bad habit.”
“I know,” I told him, “but if I can do it you can too.”
I did this as I was walking down the trail and realized that the sun was going down, which you can see behind us in the photo.
I noticed as we walked that the days were getting notoriously shorter. Last year we kind of breezed through. We made it into the Fall without really looking at what got us there, we just were happy to get day by day. It’s not that we’ve moved to looking that far ahead, but the bite is coming in the air. As soon as I saw that sunset it brought me to happier times that also made me feel the loss in a pang that hit a bit more succinctly.
I’ve written in the past, but the Fall was our time – mine and Andrea’s. I loved the bite in the air, and the fact she’d put on those big, warm sweaters and sidle up next to me. The days would get colder and the weight of the colder air would surround us in a way that would push us together even more.
I felt the melancholy, the days of my tiny daughter and my young wife when Noah looked up and said how excited he was.
“It’s getting colder, Dad, almost time to decorate for Halloween. I saw the decorations at Target already!”
“I know, buddy.”
“I really like it now. The trees get so pretty and the leaves are all kinds of colors. Don’t you like it when the trees change like that, Dad?”
I realized that Noah had never really had those memories. I smiled and looked at him and said “You guys jumped in the leaves last year.”
“Yeah, we got all muddy, but we took a shower afterwards!”
It was then I realized that we’d made our own memories. Fall was still our time, but instead it is our time. Sure, I have all those amazing memories from years past, but without realizing it, day-by-day, we’d made our own way. The Fall is still our time, but it’s all of ours now. I love the fact that the kids, feeling the bite in the air, see excitement, not sadness. They look at their Mom’s birthday coming and look forward to having a cake and celebrating her, not missing her.
The bite in the air may be a bit cold, but it’s not a time for sadness it’s a time for introspection and for forethought. I can see that the very things that made this time of year so great for me are still there.
I just have to change the way I look at things.