By Matt Gordon
Here we go again.
My wife and I pulled in to a store the other day and a couple of bag-toting college students came out.
“Friends, lovers, or siblings?” I asked, playing a favorite game of mine, as I do.
“Ah, fall is in the air,” my wife mused, ignoring me, as she does.
My wife doesn’t think there is a more glorious state of human existence than all things fall—shuttling off to buy hundreds of pencils and pencil holders and pencil erasers, starting up a fresh school year, being caressed by the cooling winds, and facially accosted by hurled leaves and acorns falling from sinister trees. She loves it.
It leaves me wanting—anything really—for so many reasons.
First, fall means cold. Yes, cold is coming. I am approximately shaped like an insect—and not some hearty beetle, but some gangly mantis. Cold alerts all my scrawny sensibilities of impending pain and death. I cannot recover from it. A normal person sits by a fire and sips cocoa to warm up; I need full immersion in said cocoa or fire to recover. I start my day with a scalding shower set at silverware cleaning levels, and then every time the chill takes me, I again plunge into the steamy isolation of the bathroom to try to regain mobility and hope. I ought to start taking the forks and spoons in there with me for efficiency sake.
I’m cold a lot too. Because we live by trees. I once knew a man from Texas who said he could never return to the Lone Star state from Missouri because of the trees. That man was a lunatic. The trees are chaotic conspirators. I told a nature-minded friend that occasionally I will throw a wad of gum from my mouth and car toward roadside woods, and she was peaceably agitated the way nature-minded folks tend to be. She didn’t fight me or scold—worse, she was quietly disappointed in me. I asked her why. “A deer could get that gum!” she parried. Oh, so a delicious treat is now a bad thing? I was confused, so I pressed on, another favorite game of mine.
“The deer could choke, or be drawn to that spot and get hit by a car. Plus, gum or not it is littering.”
Littering! A lot of nerve she has, throwing that in my face like a piece of wadded up gum. Littering! Does she see what her dear little trees do every single fall? Somehow every tree in the county colludes against me. For months they drop their trash-like leaves (what, say you, is the difference between a leaf of paper and a leaf of forest?) in my yard. I face the bitter cold to battle this catastrophe, but like Chernobyl, there is no let up. I awake the next day—in the cold morning light—to a new dusting of death. For me there are only two states of being to fall and winter—bone-level coldness and in the shower. That is what my existence shivers down to.
Second, we are locked in. This isn’t a two-week sort of deal. No, like the very school year we are celebrating, the only way out is through. It is depressing. My wife has all the feels about this fresh-start delusion, but I find it off-putting. Most school years for me were fun for about two days. And then a thing would start happening called homework. And grades. And expectations. And social pressures. And dances in which you weren’t actually sure if the girl you asked by note delivered via her friend’s friend’s friend will actually come through and be your date or not. I find it no coincidence that there are only two institutions in which we are photographed upon first-day entry: school and jail. Fall is claustrophobic; it is a cage of a different type.
Third, fall brings on a rash of decorating impulses. My wife said the other day, “Well, we’ll have to haul up the fall decorations!” She was excited. Which means there is a disconnect with reality. At no point in human history can one find a time where the words “haul up” should induce anything but dissatisfaction, oppression, and a general avoidance.
But there is nowhere to hide. Our basement brims with bins of décor—most of which we paid actual money for even though nearly all of it resembles the stuff the trees hurl into our backyard for free. Stick arrangements and leaf designs and nut clusters—yes, nut clusters, you read that right. We affix them to our walls, lean them on our doors, and wrap our television in them. It becomes similarly affixed to our existence—anywhere we are, there they are, these twigs and other nature vomit.
And this is not a one-time foray—oh no, dear friends, it is once more into the breach, again and again and again. Because we have pre-Labor Day fall décor. And post-Labor day décor. Then there is October sprucing. And Halloween stuff. Thanksgiving. Don’t forget Columbus Day and now the more woke anti-Columbus Day fare. You name it, we’ve got it. And if we don’t, we’ll march out into the cold to enter charlatan stores dedicated to taking our hard-earned money in exchange for Day of the Dead gnomes or decorative pilgrim-leaf bannister wraps. I wonder how many return trips the Mayflower had to make to Europe to bring to the new world the original plastic squashes and front door signs that featured witticisms like, FALL and FRIENDS and BROKE.
So here we go. Into another school year. Another fall. Another winter. The cold darkness, the décor, the endless, overpriced school supplies.
I think back to that couple of college students leaving the store. They seemed moderately happy together, so the answer is clear: siblings.
I look at these changing seasons, at the far-off loving wonder in my wife’s face toward many of the things I hate most, and I take her hand in mine. Knowing for sure we are friends and lovers, in the good times, the bad times, and even in the fall times. Especially in the fall times.
Like Friday Follies? Click here for more, and visit each Friday for a weekly dose of idiocy.