When I moved from Tokyo to New York, I was a young mom with three children under 3 years old. I was too busy settling down in a new home, in a new country, in a new continent to notice much about the weather. I didn’t know then how much it would influence everything I did daily.
One day it was warm and summery, and the next, a chill was in the air that heralded the incipient change of season. Just like that. Sweaters were back in the closet and winter coats started making their appearance.
The northeast of the United States puts on a show every fall and trees become paintings of the most astounding colors which are impossible to reproduce in any artform. Those bright orange, red, purple and yellow trees, the busy squirrels in the garden gathering acorns for their winter sustenance, the piles of leaves in the garden, and the cozyness of those first few colder days made quite an enormous impression on me.
I had never felt it as acutely as I did then. It was similar to the feeling that engulfed me when I first saw Tokyo’s iconic cherry blossoms in the spring. The gray city turned into a pink wonderland of delicate blossoms which also fell as gently as snow on the floor making a natural carpet of exquisite pink beauty.
Our children were quite small when we started our own tradition of piling into the car, dog and all and driving up to Red Hook in upstate New York to visit Greig Farm, a magical place where we could pick our own raspberries and apples in the fields.
First, we needed to stop at the Red Hook diner to have a hearty breakfast because invariably, everyone was starving. Then off to work in the fields to get our bounty. We’d stop to choose our pumpkin which took considerable time because everyone insisted that the one they had picked was the one we should buy. We would leave with a couple of large boxes with berries and mountains of apples we had picked ourselves.
On our way back, we’d stop at the wayside farmers’ market to buy some veggies, drink freshly made cider, and munch on the most exquisite apple cider donuts I had ever tasted. What a treat that was in addition to calming everyone down from the excitement of the day. We’d hop into the car for the trip home and the kids and dog invariably napped all the way.
I couldn’t believe the amount of raspberries that we had collected, and I was able to make little baskets to give to our friends and also for the kids to take to school for their teachers on Monday. I still had plenty to make mousse, pies and also to freeze them like Martha Stewart had taught me and would last us for many snacks to come.
As the years went by, the little ones started nursery school, kindergarten and life in the fall became the preparation for all of those activities. Year after year and for the duration of our life as a family in New York we continued to pile into our van to head north to enjoy some of our favorite things about autumn.
It was our family tradition and we continued going to the farm long after the kids were not little anymore. In fact, we even managed to go when they were in college and years after they were all working in the city. The allure of the place never left us.
Halloween always entailed having sweaters and coats at the ready to put on over the children’s costumes because inevitably, the air was chillier and the late afternoon was darker.
When we got home after Trick-or-Treating, the kids would get busy sorting out their bounty of sweets and the adults would gather in my kitchen to eat sausages and sauerkraut and celebrate Oktoberfest with a mug of beer and lively celebration.
In a flash, we changed to Daylight Savings Time and our evenings began at 4PM. I could never really get used to the fact that just an hour could make such a difference in our lives. The nights were busy but quite endless, and it was considerably colder outside. Snow started around December and then the long, cold winter was afoot.
In 2002, my husband died, and I ended up living alone in the big house where we raised our family. A few years later, I decided to follow the sun and move to Miami. I never quite got used to living on my own in the freezing cold dealing with the vicissitudes of the weather and the proper functioning of my heating system.
Moreover, my tolerance for the lack of sunlight was seriously waning. I was developing a serious case of sun deprivation syndrome.
In Miami, the change of temperature is more subtle. You start feeling a difference in the air and soon enough it’s what the natives call “the season” and the best part of living in Miami. Having dinner outside in January and February certainly has a strong appeal for me, and sitting at the beach with a light sweater and reading my book has replaced a lot of New York fall activities.
Last week I went to Trader Joe’s and lo and behold I got my first taste of Autumn this year. Of course, everything was pumpkin based – from muffin mixes to chocolate to candies and beautiful big pumpkins. Walking down the aisles, I realized that the fall decorations and seasonal specialties inspired me to pick up a little box of raspberries, some apple cider and a bag of apples which made their way to my cart almost without my noticing.
The best find was a box of six scrumptious and fresh apple cider donuts. Needless to say, not all of them made it home. It is not surprising to me that the fall makes me feel enormously melancholic. I close my eyes and I can see myself surrounded by my family and enjoying those lovely autumn days in the northeast. I owe myself another box of those donuts to feel more cheerful as I munch them in the garden surrounded by palm trees.
What does the fall season mean to you? Did you celebrate fall in a special way in your family? How do you celebrate the season these days? Let’s hear your stories!