There’s a picture book I loved as a child that seems to capture the feeling of melancholy that can come from transitioning from one season to the next. Four collie puppies greet each changing season with trepidation, wanting the previous one to last a little longer. As fall sets in and cool winds begin to blow, they try to save the few remaining flower petals in a sad little pile. There is a sense of longing, a wish to stop time. The story shows us how each season has its own joys and things to look forward to.
Our hot and humid Midwestern summer has left me feeling grateful for fall’s arrival and its crisp air–that divine sleeping weather with open windows and light blankets. But like the puppies, I find myself suddenly mourning the loss of summer and all its freedoms, rather than looking forward to what’s next.
The bright burst of cherry tomatoes in my mouth.
The buzz and thrum of the cicadas through the bedroom window.
The laughs of the neighbor’s kids playing in the street, riding their bikes around and around, and the lemonade stands where we always stop.
The startling freshness of Lake Superior and the feel of smooth rocks under our feet.
The joy of saying, “No, you don’t need to wear shoes.”
With fall comes the structure and routine we all eventually enjoy, but that feels hard and rigid at first. We must wear shoes, we must be inside more, and even though the fireflies still flash in the yard, we are often too busy to see them. We have lots of things to get done and the list seems to grow longer each day.
Transitioning between seasons seems more bittersweet to me as a parent, as I see my children growing up. Like the puppies trying to force a season to stick around, I find myself wanting my children to stay just as they are, suspended at four and six. Right now they are so open and full of such joy. They fight bitterly and love each other just as deeply. They are full of questions and build flying machines out of cardboard boxes and still want to hold our hands when we take walks.
These long summer days gave me a feeling of suspension, a lengthening out that felt relaxing despite the thick, dripping humidity.
But my children are moving me forward into the next season–they lack my wistful hesitancy. Just yesterday, my son asked if we could go to see Santa again. I was startled to already be thinking of Christmas and the piles of snow that accompany it.
He is already excited about what is coming next. I want to slow down; he wants to speed up.
So we started talking about the kind of list I do enjoy—things to look forward to. We have finished fall already and started our winter list: Go see Santa, make snow ice cream after the first big snow, have hot chocolate by the fire, and on and on.
This kind of list helps me look out with hope, and look back with more thoughtfulness and gratitude.
My daughter was playing with some of her stuffed animals the other day and came in to report what she was doing.
“How’s Horsie doing?” I asked, as I fixed myself some coffee, trying not to mourn that iced coffee no longer tastes good these last few weeks.
“He’s fine,” she said. “He’s not excited and he’s not sad. He’s in the middle of happy.”
As I stirred milk into my coffee, I thought about “the middle of happy”—that place like a hammock, anchored by people who love you, even when you try their patience.
A place of comfort and security where you can be still or just rock gently.
A place to rest and figure out what to do next.
Alexandra White lives in a tiny town in Northeast Iowa with her husband, son and daughter. By day she works for a large IT company, and by evening and weekend, she enjoys cooking, writing, and getting lost in the woods with her family. She tracks her family’s adventures at her blog, Talleygilly.