It comes in flashes, like so many flickering, falling leaves, raining down in gold and orange and crimson.
Thoughts, memories of autumns past. Of Thanksgivings.
I am a small child again, walking with my grandfather to my piano lesson. We are kicking up the leaves on the sidewalk at dusk, enjoying their crunching, swishing sound, their sweet scent, and laughing as we kick them, too, at each other’s ankles. We pause to share a KitKat bar.
Then, I am older, raking up leaves with my father in the back yard. Begging him to let me run and jump into them. Finally, he says yes and I disappear into a floating, crinkling cloud of browns and oranges. Somehow I am held aloft in their softness.
Next we are at the cottage, the deep blue fall sky reflected in the white-capped waves on the lake. The grey logs of the house stand out against so many colours. My grandparents have just arrived, driving through the multi-coloured tapestried walls of birch and beech and maple. The smell of woodsmoke is carried on the wind with the scents of Thanksgiving cooking. A fragrant chicken is roasting, with oranges and carrots and celery. A pumpkin pie, my favourite dessert, sits cooling on the counter.
Over the weekend, as with other Thanksgivings at the cottage, we will prepare the Christmas cakes, each person stirring once for good luck and making a wish. And my mother, grandmother and great-aunt will together make my Halloween costume. Another family tradition. Will it be a lady bug? A harlequin? A cat?
I fast forward to Ireland. I am 23 and away from home for Thanksgiving for the first time. I am living with three other people. It doesn’t feel too much like fall in Ireland. The leaves stay green for the most part, but the cool damp air is noticeably cooler. I search out the Canadian section of the arboretum – there are five small maples, a speck of home, glowing in their bright foliage against a sea of emerald green.
A group of us from the housing estate have a dinner party once a month and each of us takes turns cooking dinner. As it is Thanksgiving, I have elected to cook dinner this time. I am not cooking a traditional Thanksgiving feast, though. I am cooking my own memory of Canadian food: a large trout broiled with onions and tarragon and lemon, carrots with basil, potatoes. If I close my eyes while it cooks, I can smell the cottage.
Another year, I come home from Ireland for a visit. I’ve chosen to come home at Thanksgiving because I miss Canadian autumns. I go to my dad’s and his wife’s for a lunch in the countryside. Her family is there and we all go for a walk in the field. The grass is tawny, the sky is deep and limitless, the trees are in their full glory. It is wonderful to see these colours again!
And then, my last Thanksgiving in Ireland, though I don’t know it at the time. I am 27. I make cranberry sauce, roast chicken with sage and thyme bread stuffing, mashed potatoes and green beans and carrots and apple pie. It is almost a real Thanksgiving.
Before I know it, I am home again, living in Ottawa. My mother gathers everyone to her country house in Kingston – halfway between Toronto, where she and her brother and my grandmother and great-aunt live, and where I and my cousin and her husband live. We are all there. The trees are alight, the cool brown river rushes past, tumbling over rocks and the cement of an old dam. It is Thanksgiving once again.
Two years later, I have a son. I take him out into the wonders of the fall colours. I press red leaves into his hands. I wonder how this world looks from his perspective, this world that so far in his life has only been green, is now multi-hued. I can hardly wait to talk to him about it, to hear his thoughts. To know what his favourite season is.
And now, 8 years later, another Thanksgiving. My son is excited for Halloween, and for tomorrow night’s pumpkin pie. We reminisced this past week about the previous years that we collected coloured leaves, pressing them between sheets of waxed paper and hanging them in the sunlight to glow like stained glass windows.
He and my husband are up on an adventure run in the forest as I begin the task of cooking my favourite foods. I’m looking forward to hearing all about the colours and the trees up there – they are always brighter earlier there than they are down here in the city.
My favourite season, with its flaming colours, pumpkin pies, cool temperatures, deep blue skies, and Thanksgiving and Halloween, is entirely too short.
So, yes, I am glad to be moving into this new season. I hope it lasts awhile, that it does not flash past in the blink of an eye this time.