The year’s ‘last, loveliest smile’

‘Tis the best season at Forrest Hall Farm –
Mechanicsville, Maryland

October weekend

Farm fun

An October weekend is sunny cornfields, mountains of laundry, a crisp morning with the first wisps of visible breath.

Apple-cider donuts. Driving with the windows down. Trying on our costumes weeks in advance, and “practicing” our trick-or-treating.

Dodging the candy aisle in Target. Begrudgingly tucking arms into jackets, all shed by lunchtime. Crunching through a yard full of leaves.

Packing away the shorts and tees, then shopping to cover the kids’ ever-longer limbs. Replacing their whole wardrobe as they grow taller. Listening hard as they grow funnier, and wiser.

Chili on the stovetop, cornbread in the oven. Pies and whipped cream with an extra “shot” right from the can. Watching “Boss Baby” while I wash bedding. Fielding requests for “Peppa Pig” as we dim the lights for bedtime, now earlier and earlier.

It’s the four of us settling down on a Sunday night, with the house smelling of Lysol and (most of) the toys all tucked away.

It’s another donut for good measure. Monday’s on its way.

Ollie apple donut

When autumn comes, it doesn’t ask


When autumn comes, it doesn’t ask.
It just walks in where it left you last.
You never know when it starts
until there’s fog inside the glass
around your summer heart.

“Something’s Missing,”
John Mayer

What reminds you of fall?

For me, it’s John Mayer’s “Heavier Things.” Buying the album on CD that first fall of my freshman year with cash from my first job. Watching the fog clear on the windshield of my old Corolla — the one before the one I’m currently selling, now that the minivan life has taken its hold. Listening to “Clarity” while I felt both too young and too old at college.

It’s dinner in the slow cooker — stews, chili. Chicken and wild rice soup.

Warm quilts. Sweatpants. Candy corn.

Stowing away flip-flops, digging out boots. Warm, sunny afternoons and crisp evenings.

Mums on porches. Mornings thick with dew. Finding last season’s jackets and slipping little arms into their sleeves, wondering if anything still fits.

This year, it’s also my son pointing out each crispy leaf, asking if we’re any closer to Halloween. Excitedly announcing that “it’s fall time!” with a commitment to giving a home to any lonely pumpkin we see … just like his mama.

My heart is not a summer heart. I adore spring, when my babies were born, and winter has its cozy charms.

But fall is still my favorite. Let’s get started.


Gratitude and gourds


We know I’m a crazy fall nut.

It’s one of my defining characteristics, I’d say — this obsession with changing leaves, apple cider and my beloved pumpkin spice lattes. When this love affair with autumn began, I really couldn’t say . . . but it only seems to intensify from year to year.

But this year? For as excited as I am about the months to come (read: very excited), this is the first time bidding adieu to summer feels bittersweet. I’ll miss my flip-flops and ice cream, gardening and running out in tank tops, but most of all? I’ll miss the farmers’ markets.

We have quite a few nearby, and our favorite is filled with Amish produce and goods that takes over a library parking lot on Saturday mornings. Spencer and I have driven out for tomatoes, zucchini, onions and breads (delicious, delicious breads) many times since late spring, and I felt the changing tide last weekend.

Gone were the colorful hanging baskets filled with flowers, the watermelon, the cantaloupe . . . in their place were gourds and Indian corn, fat pots of mums and sunflowers. It was a cool, misty morning, and I saw summer slipping away like sand between tanned fingers.

It makes me happy — and it makes me sad. It feels traitorous to autumn to admit that, but here we are.


This morning it was cool enough to need a jacket — bringing to mind all those early school days when I could finally dig out the sweaters and boots I’d lovingly selected back in the summer. Given it often stays hot here through the end of September, all the back-to-school duds my sister and I would pick out in August couldn’t be worn until October.

We waited and waited, gazing longingly at our cute cardigans and corduroys with their tags in the closet — hoping the temperatures would dip enough to unveil our fall wardrobe. There was nothing as disappointing as wearing old summer tops in a fresh new year — back when each September was a chance to reinvent yourself, begin anew.

September still feels that way for many of us, I think. Though my budget doesn’t allow for a reinvention of the ol’ wardrobe these days, I am looking forward to reorganizing my closet to find beloved pieces packed away since last year.

I want to focus more on what I have instead of seeking more — a feeling I’ve toyed with often since January, when I resolved to use up and make do instead of investing in additional stuff.

Gratitude and gourds . . . that’s what I want fall to be about.

Well, that and corn mazes. And cider. And ghost stories . . .

Who says we can’t have it all?

Early signs of fall


I woke up this morning thinking of fall.

It’s a cool, misty day — the sort of dawn that makes me think of October leaves and pumpkins and apple cider. As we draw closer to autumn, we’re also drawing closer to the wedding. The thought alone makes my heart pound: excitement and nerves and joy.

Though it’s still mid-August, our sights are turned to back-to-school. Scrolling through Facebook from bed this morning, my feed was flooded with in jumpers with their lunch boxes, smiling optimistic and gap-toothed on their first day. I remember standing just as they did in front of my grandparents’ house, as anxious as a 7-year-old could be, wondering who would sit by me at lunch or join me on the swings at recess. I can still close my eyes, feeling what I felt.

I do miss school. I miss my college classes, wandering around the University of Maryland on the best type of time crunch, feeling grown-up and busy and alive. I discovered so much back then, fell in first love my sophomore year, and listening to Ingrid Michaelson or Death Cab for Cutie or The Shins brings it all right back to me. I can’t listen to those tunes without remembering that one magnificent, golden fall: soft hoodies, the crunch of feet on leaves. Cool, crisp air and hope and the unknown.

The dawn of a new school year — buses dotting country roads; fresh boxes of Crayons in perfect rows at Target — makes me nostalgic for the way things were. When you’re young, you can’t wait to grow up. When you grow up, you remember — keenly — what it was like to be young. It might seem funny to hear a 28-year-old wax so nostalgic, but trust me when I say it’s nothing new.

Just starting

Today I was thinking about our future kids: maybe wild and curly-haired; maybe quiet and sweet. I was thinking about what their first day will be like, how I’ll cry quietly and try to act tough; how I’ll wait with sickening nerves to hear about their first day. How quickly those years will go by, faster than I can reach out to hold them. And I’ll wax nostalgic about this moment, months before our wedding — before I knew anything about what the future would hold.

Oh, the messy stuff on my mind before I’ve had my first diet soda of the day, friends. Scary, isn’t it?

But I’ve fast-forwarded too far. This fall will be delightfully busy, unexpected and awesome. It will feature the hardest, best kind of change: all that comes with building a new life. As Spencer and I draw closer to that big day, the early signs of autumn are getting me in the fall-and-wedding mindset like nothing else has. We always knew we wanted a fall wedding — and goodness knows I’m a fall fanatic — and now . . . it’s almost here.