Memories of Fall
By E. Adam Porter
Editor in Chief, News of Sun City Center
A quick glance at my calendar tells me the first day of fall this year is Saturday, September 22. With that auspicious turn of season on the horizon, the harbingers of autumn in Florida will not be too far behind. The humidity drops a bit, we don’t get as many afternoon thunder boomers, and the mornings can feel downright delicious. Temperatures are still warm though, shorts and sunglasses remain the uniform of the day for another few months, at least.
Through my home office window, some of the trees are bright and green, while others are already shedding leaves. Those leaves, both verdant and falling, paint a fair description of fall in Florida. A season perpetually in transition. Meanwhile, by Labor Day, the world around us will have shifted completely into autumn. The grocery stores will be filled with pumpkin everything, and the retail shops will overflow with cornucopias, maize, and faux leaves in all the shades of the season. And me? I will celebrate my favorite time of the year.
Apart from all the leaves I will be obliged to rake on the ol’ homestead and my disdain for pumpkin spice latte, I love this season. The weather is still warm enough to steal away to the beach or to the springs upstate, where you won’t have to fight the crowds, because the kids are all in school, and the tourists haven’t started arriving en masse quite yet.
On just about every channel, just about every day, there’s football on the tube… and, at this moment, in my yard. My boys and the neighbor kids are out there now, tossing the pigskin. I can hear the little one demanding to be included, even though he can’t keep up with the bigger boys. Not yet, at least. In about a week, their big brother will join them. Chris is done with his hitch in the military. After serving most of his six years overseas, the Big One is coming home to start his civilian life in Florida. His mom and I are, naturally, overjoyed.
So, forgive me if this September feels a bit more special than those that have come before… or if I’m a bit more nostalgic, watching my todays and yesterdays blend together in my mind’s eye.
In about a week, my brother will be hitting the big 5-0, and I cannot wait to help him ‘celebrate’ that milestone. Him turning 50 will take some getting used to, for both of us. I blink, and the decades fall away. There we are, a couple of shaggy-haired blonde goofballs, cruising the flats around Anna Maria Island in his Boston Whaler, cast net and ski rope balled against the transom, bags of french fries and grouper bites at our feet, and bottles of Sunkist shoved in the cup holders.
Those images shift in mind to more recent Septembers, cruising the river behind my house, my boys leaning over the side to let their fingers make streams in the water. Teaching them to cast for bluegill, and waiting for my bride to haul in the first fish. Twenty years of marriage, and, no matter where we are, she always catches the first one. The boys are getting pretty good too… though they have yet to embrace the greasy indulgence of grouper bites.
When I think about past Septembers, I can almost feel the backpack settle on my shoulders, full of newly-purchased schoolbooks waiting to be devoured. I was one of those kids who loved to read. The subject didn’t matter. Even as a kid, I realized there was more to learn than I would ever possibly know… but it wouldn’t be for lack of trying. Looking back, at my own school years and raising three boys, so many Septembers in my life have been filled with shopping for “school shoes,” scrawling names on pencil boxes, and the sound of spines cracking on shiny new textbooks. Days of hoping you would forget your lunch so you could “buy hot,” and hoping you wouldn’t forget your locker combination, so you wouldn’t be late for class… again.
September takes me back to afternoon football practices on muddy fields and Friday night games under the lights. In September, the sensations from the past seem so real, close enough to touch. The feel of crashing through the banner, and the pride of standing with your teammates, helmet in one hand and the other over your heart, as the National Anthem plays. The crackle of the press box loudspeaker, which never quite worked right, the missing bulbs in the scoreboard, and the way the field lights turned the goal posts into a skeletal shadow. The crack of helmets and pads… how the accolades from the crowd and the cheerleaders sounded so far away as we broke the huddle. The smell of the fresh cut grass as you dropped into a three-point stance. The exhilaration when you have the other guys on their heels and the end zone in sight. The shouts of joy when the catch is made.
I’m hearing those shouts again, but, this time, they’re coming from just outside my open window. I see them now, out in the yard. Shirts versus skins, all dreaming of the Super Bowl. A neon tank top flashes by the window, shaggy hair bouncing with each strong but awkward step. Poor kid runs like his old man. Fortunately, he’s learning to throw like him too. Hearing that familiar whoosh and slap of the ball, part of me is already out there with them. The rest of this story can wait. There’s a little bit of fall in the air… and more memories are calling, ready to be made.