Well, Fall finally fell on us. It’s been a long, (miserably) hot summer here, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the change in temperatures. I say “eagerly anticipating,” but I still didn’t expect it. I was out and about this morning between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., and the temp was dipping into the upper 40s. Luckily, I remembered to put on a light jacket.
Before I go on, a couple of notes — yes, I did throw the “(miserably)” in there to avoid blatantly copying the title of that 1958 Paul Newman movie based on some of William Faulkner’s short stories. Faulkner is an admirable Southern writer, but just because he wrote it his way doesn’t mean we still have to write it so. Still, Faulkner is right about summers down South.
Second — yes, for all y’all English teachers and grammar geeks out there, I know that “Fall” is usually not capitalized. The seasons are not capitalized unless they’re used as personifications, but ... I’ve always done it. It just seems “righter,” just like the whole question actually is writing mechanics and not grammar, so grammar geeks is incorrect as well. However, grammar geeks has a nice sound to it because of the alliteration, and no one other than grammar geeks would know what a mechanics geek is. So... Fall.
I do think of Fall as a personality, so I guess that’s why I’ve always capitalized it. Spring is a personality, too, so I usually capitalize it. Weirdly enough, I’ve never capitalized winter or summer consistently, which would indicate I don’t think of either as a personality. And I don’t. Winter and summer are more trials, tests, tribulations down this way — and they seem to be getting more so as the years pass.
Maybe it’s me. I’ve noticed subtle changes as I age. I don’t eat as much as I used to — I can’t, in fact. The amount of food I put away in a single meal in my 20s would suffice me for a day now. Loud noises annoy me more than they used to when I was myself a “loud noise.” The one that’s surprised me most is that very hot weather and very cold weather bother me more than both used to.
I’m really fascinated, it seems, with my transformation into a cantankerous old man. To be utterly truthful, I’m ENJOYING said transformation. I’m only 50, but that means I’m only five years away from the earliest senior’s discounts of which I’m aware ... and I intend to use them. I’ve been practicing my “Get off my lawn, you kids!” bellow.
It’s not that I FEEL particularly old, either. My situation is magnified by the fact that I hang out with people who are either at least a decade older than I or (at least) a decade younger. Very rarely do I see friends my own age on a daily basis. Why? Well, we’re in the “summer” of our lives — late summer, maybe, but summer nonetheless. That time of life when we’re working our longest and hottest. Our 40s were the worst, I think, and we’re only now starting to cool down as we approach Fall.
So when the Fall of my life arrives in a few years, I’ll be ready for it. It won’t catch me off guard like the chilly temps this morning. Now is the time for harvest, the time for gathering in. Now is the time to “collect up” quilts, to put it another way. A life is like a patchwork quilt; it’s beautifully colorful and varied, and it keeps one warm in the winter of life.
Now, at the height of my powers, mental and physical, is the time to prepare for that age so that I’m not dragged kicking and screaming into it, rushing around breathless trying to winterize the house.
The other day, in response to an 18-year-old’s question about the seasons, I pulled out the ultimate old-man phrase, “Back in my day ...” — and that’s when it hit me. Those days were my days; these days are those 18-year-olds’ days. I then said, “... It seemed like we had four seasons back then, not like now when it just gets hot and then gets cold.” It’s my nostalgia that leads me to see “those days” like that.
Something else occurred to me at that moment I realized that these days are their days — their summers ARE longer and hotter. More is expected of young people these days at an earlier age, and more will likely be expected of them for longer. They have only two seasons — summer and winter.
That’s a shame, but I know they’ll solve it. After all, cantankerousness has its advantages — discounts, running kids out of your yard and just making up all the grammar, mechanics and syntax you want as you go along.
David Murdock is an English instructor at Gadsden State Community College. He can be contacted at email@example.com. The opinions reflected are his own.