Fall 1998: At home, helping my mom bake pumpkin bread and muffins (by helping, I mostly mean creeping around waiting for the oven timer to go off) – some to eat, some to freeze – that she always (to this day) keeps on hand for fall treats and later, for Christmas gifts.
Just like my love of coffee, my love of pumpkin-flavored everything started early and honestly. But my love of fall wasn’t born until later. Spoiler alert: it actually had nothing to do with the birth of the pumpkin spice latte or a fashion trend (scarves, Uggs, leggings)…
Fall 2005: Friday night lights burning on a small-town high school football field. Senior players spilling onto the field in red, black, and white; cheerleaders yelling, girls standing nervously in sparkly dresses for homecoming court; adrenaline pumping in a way that can only be produced by the imperfect and nostalgic sounds of a high school drum line.
I was born and raised in North Carolina. I grew up in the Piedmont and lived for four glorious years in Chapel Hill and two years in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. I love many things about this state. I believe God’s favorite color is Carolina blue; I believe in sweet tea; I believe in James Taylor. But what I love the most about NC is the promise of four distinct seasons –not something every state can boast, and not something I appreciated when I was younger.
Fall 2009: Orange and red leaves swirling on the iconic brick sidewalks leading everywhere I go — Davie Hall, Kenan Stadium, Franklin Street, Davis Library, Memorial Hall. Chilly Saturday mornings spent in parking lots surrounded by friends, family, solo cups and corn hole boards, followed by afternoons spent in a screaming sea of blue. The indescribable rush and gratitude of experiencing life on a college campus in the fall.
I am a summer baby with an August birthday, and summer has historically been my favorite season (see an ode to the simple summer for some of the reasons why). But as I’ve gotten older, the promise of changing seasons and varying temperatures has become not only more appealing, but critical to my sanity. Changing seasons as in, neither a year-round stall at a stifling 95 degrees (hello, NC summers), nor a dark, rainy winter that goes on forever.
Fall 2010: A return to my alma mater for an epic (for reasons other than the final score) November football game vs. NCSU, this time with friends old and new. New including a sort of annoying, but hysterical, guy that asked me about 452 times if I wanted to wear his State sweatshirt (under the pretense that he said I looked cold, but really just to cover up my Julius Peppers jersey). NO.
…And changing seasons as in, graduate school semesters that do have an end (whether it be passing or failing that exam – all the praise hands that it’s over), a time to plant and a time to uproot (thank you Lord, for frost and an end to the busy season), and the baby’s sleep regression that won’t last forever (er…right?).
Fall 2011: A cooler, more boldly colored fall than I’ve ever known, spent on the mountain, in the midst of my first graduate school semester. Discovering a new town and making new friends. Trips down the mountain to see that guy with the NCSU sweatshirt that I still won’t wear.
I credit Boone with being the place and time in my life that I learned the value of different seasons in life and the grace in God’s promise that there is a time and a season for everything. It was the time that my lifelong one-season love of summer spiraled into a need for something more…I found a new love.
Fall 2012: A cloudy October afternoon in a pumpkin patch on a farm in Greensboro. A beautiful ring on top of a monster pumpkin. A farmer. A ‘yes’!
Yes…that love, too. But also the one that feels like a windy, crisp 55 degrees; smells like wood smoke and apple cider; looks like pumpkins on doorsteps, orange and red leaves swirling at my feet, and the vivid autumn skyline of the North Carolina mountains; tastes like cinnamon and pumpkin bread (and yes, pumpkin spice lattes); sounds like the shudder of dry leaves on streets and sidewalks, a fire crackling, and the crack of kick-off followed by the deafening roar of a college stadium.
Fall 2013: Starting a new job as a school psychologist. The sickness, death, and celebration of life of a grandparent. Weeks later, a small-town wedding on a perfect November day (ironically, the same NCSU v. UNC game day that we met at three years prior) with our very best friends and family. A most fun reception on a cool autumn evening at a vineyard–maybe the event that sealed this ‘fall is my favorite’ deal.
Somehow, fall became the growing season for my twenties. It’s when I met my husband, started graduate school and moved to the mountains, got married, and became a mother for the first time. This season has also seen loss, stress, and tears, but I managed to grow through it and love it even more for what I learned in the midst of those times.
Fall 2015: A precious boy is born– the sweetest, smartest, funniest baby that I’ve ever known. Weathering late night feedings, health scares, and stumbling through this whole we’re-responsible-for-a-human thing with my best friend.
Today many of my friends tease me for my “obsession” (they say) with all things pumpkin and fall. But it’s an ‘obsession’ I feel good about, because my love for fall was born from life experiences and blessings, and rooted deeply in relationships that are products of this season. The sounds, tastes, smells, and sights of fall evoke memories for me that have shaped my life and grown me as a person…so yes, I will start decorating by Labor Day, fill every nook and cranny of my house with pumpkins and leafy décor, wear scarves when it’s borderline warm outside (okay, maybe not this year while pregnant), drink or eat something pumpkin nearly every day, and plead with Matt to build a fire as soon as it drops below 50 outside. Every year when the temperatures [finally] drop and the leaves start to turn, I’m reminded how grateful I am to live in a place that embodies God’s promise of changing seasons (Daniel 2:21) and that for everything, there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)… For that, I am so thankful.
Fall 2018 (so this technically happened in August, but just humor me–no doubt this scene will repeat itself in the fall): Making my mom’s pumpkin bread in my own kitchen, with my almost three-year-old helper. Asking him what he did with mama’s pumpkins that have gone MIA from the dining room table decor (he is an October baby – can he even help it?). Calling dada to bring more pumpkins home from the farm. Anxiously awaiting the arrival of baby boy #2 (and fall baby #2)…and a new season of life.