Seasonal Differences (#85)

I would bottle autumn if I could.
I would bottle autumn if I could.

I love this time of year. I always have, even when it meant summer was over and school was starting. Or maybe it was because summer was over and school was starting. Summer in D.C. is hideous. 90-100 degrees, with 95% humidity. The city feels like a swamp, possibly because it was built on a swamp. (Part of Thomas Jefferson’s master plan to keep the central government from governing as much a possible. Pre-Presidential Jefferson would be considered a Libertarian by today’s standards.)

Siblings compounded summer’s sweltering misery. In June and July, we spent three hours daily at swim practice. We were too tired to do anything but lie around reading afterwards. Swimming ended in August. By then we’d built up our stamina. We had oodles of energy to spare and we were bored.

We used our endless energy in the most constructive way possible, of course – tormenting the crap out of each other. Beds were short-sheeted. Cellophane coated toilet seats. Vaseline coated hair brushes. Fake spiders appeared. Fake phone calls from crushes were made. We swung on chandeliers, ripped the staircase bannister out several times, and dug giant holes in the backyard. In retrospect, it’s amazing we all survived.

Autumn meant cooling weather, football, and escape from siblings. It also brought all the potential of the new school year. New clothes. Old friends. New friends, and hopefully new boyfriends, because my sisters and I had probably dated most of the boys on campus last year.

Along with glorious leaves, autumn marks the beginning of holiday season.

First there’s Halloween. As a kid, there was nothing better than getting and eating as much free candy as you wanted. (And I wanted a lot.) As a teenager and a twenty-something, costumes were a socially acceptable place let out my inner slut. And now? October is the only month I can buy five giant bags of snack-sized chocolate bars without anyone snickering.

Halloween is followed by Thanksgiving – more food! Vacation days! – and then Christmas (even more food, even more vacation days, and PRESENTS). Seriously, autumn through New Year’s is the best time of the year.

I live in Southern California now. We don’t exactly have seasons. We have weather forecasts.

July-January: Sunny/ dry.

February: Torrential rain if we’re lucky. Intermittent sky spit if we’re not.

March-May: Sunny/ dry.

June: Heavy cloud cover/ fog, especially at the beach. This is known locally as “June Gloom” as it bums out all the would-be beach goers from the Valley who never check the weather reports and brave hours of LA traffic only to find a  chilly, foggy beach at the end of their trip.

But even though I’m in Southern California, where October is now our hottest month on record, I still feel like October should be fall.

Which is why Andy came home from work after we were married and found me hauling a box up two flights of stairs from the garage. And sweating, of course, because it was 80+ degrees.

“Oh, God. It’s not more damned wedding china, is it?” Andy didn’t understand the need for fourteen place settings. (He would learn.)

I grinned at him. “No! It’s fall stuff!”

Andy responded with a blank look.

I tried again. “You know, harvest-themed tablecloths? Wind chimes in the shape of leaves? And some really clever fake fall leaves made out of fabric that Boyfriend Stealing Baby Sister #1 sent me last year. Plus this adorable lamp with maple leaves from JM’s mom –”

Andy interrupted. “What is in your ears!?”

I beamed and fingered the maple leaf that some enterprising New Englander had laminated into immortality, hung on a wire, and sold for a massive profit. “Aren’t they cute? Ex-Stepmother sent them to me, along with some real leaves from her trees in New Hampshire!”

Andy asked, “We’re not, uh, going out tonight or anything, are we?”

“What? You don’t like them?”

“I thought they were angry starfish. And why are you putting out fall stuff anyway? It’s still 80 degrees.”

“Go turn up the air conditioning and let me pretend.”

Andy shrugged and lowered the temperature by one degree. As he made dinner, I swapped out tablecloths, arranged centerpieces, and yammered on about how much I missed apple-picking.

Andy interrupted. “So you had to pick your own apples?”

Me: “Well, you could buy whole boxes that were already picked –”

Andy: “Did they cost the same?”

Me: “Well, yeah, it was all by the pound and the type of apple.”

Andy snorted. “Sounds like a scam. You pick your own apples and they charge you?!”

I glared. “Stop wrecking my memories. They had McIntosh apples, which are so good, and real cider, the kind that isn’t pasteurized, and so it gets bubbly and delicious.”

Andy: “Didn’t they stop making that because people got ebola?”

Me: “It was e coli and you don’t get it if they use good apples. And clearly, you don’t think of this fall stuff is cool.”

Andy shrugged. “I grew up in Hawaii, honey. One season. Hot and muggy.”

Me: “But didn’t you love New Hampshire? In the fall? When we got married?”

Andy: “The trees were soothing.”

It was my turn to snort. “If the trees were soothing while your mother was haranguing the crap out of you for daring to hyphenate your name, you gotta admit that New Hampshire in the autumn has a special kind of magic.”

“But we’re not in New Hampshire. We’re in the hottest month in California, and it’s like you’re turning into one of the pumpkin spice freaks that are clogging up Starbucks.” Andy likes his coffee strong and black. He finds anything else ridiculous.

I sealed up the empty box in a huff. “So one box of fall decorations makes me a freak?” (Uh-oh. Wait until he saw how many boxes of Christmas stuff I had.)

Andy realized he’d gone too far and offered to carry the box down to the garage. I declined. “You’ll probably drop it. On purpose.”

“No, I wouldn’t. It’s empty now, right?”

I put my box away. I spent the next week or two trying not to let Andy’s anti-autumn sentiments bother me.

But he had a point. The Santa Ana winds blew, hot and dry, driving the temperature up to the 90’s. The gorgeous beach weather made all mockery of my fall decorations. I felt like I had joined the ranks of pumpkin spice people; I was in love with a manufactured product so far removed from its autumnal origins that it was a joke. Maybe I was a joke. Certainly autumn in Southern California was the biggest joke of all.

Andy, who does the cooking, hits Costco and the Farmer’s Market in Torrance every Saturday morning. It’s my idea of hell, but he likes it. When he pulled into the garage around midday, I went to help him unload.

He shooed me away. “I got it.”

I went back to writing. A few minutes later, Andy appeared with a plate of cut up apples and handed me one. “Ha’s Apple Farm was back.”

I took a bite. Jumped up, danced, a little, and hugged Andy. “It’s a McIntosh! They’ve NEVER had a McIntosh! I thought they only grew up north!”

I ate the entire plate. But Andy wasn’t done yet. At dinner, he offered me a glass of unpasteurized apple cider, also from Ha’s Apple Farm. (He also told me how much it cost. Almost as much as his favorite bourbon. For a quart. In New Hampshire, you can get a jug for a few bucks.)

As I savored my apple cider, I noticed that Andy had a new kind of beer. One with a PUMPKIN on the label.

I tapped the bottle and arched an eyebrow. “Welcome to the dark side.”IMG_4703

Andy flushed. He flushed even harder when I opened the “overflow” fridge in the garage and found two shelves stuffed with various autumn lagers.

“It’s just because they were on sale at Costco, honey!” he insisted.

No wonder he wouldn’t let me help him unload.

Ha’s Apple Farm only has one McIntosh tree, and the Macs were gone by the by the next weekend. So was the cider. And that was okay. Seasons are supposed to be fleeting, after all.

But for one week at the end of October, I tasted fall again.


Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

42 thoughts on “Seasonal Differences (#85)”

  1. Great post Autumn.

    I really miss the seasons as well and autumn and spring were my favorites.

    It was nice of Andy to buy you that apple and cider. He sounds like a great guy.

      1. ^^Andy probably was testing you. That’s an Asian thing, you know.

        I really miss the different varietals that you could only get from the Farmer’s Market. Washington State was amazing for apples…

          1. Cider was getting big again. Some local bars were serving lically made ciders. Delicious stuff!

            I really miss Seattle.

  2. I, too love autumn. Spring is great but it can be wet.

    I guess most of the autumn leaves have long gone and it is cold and probably grey in London.

  3. Autumn or fall is certainly not the same in Australia. Our fall starts in March and right now in October, we are having an incredibly balmy spring of 86’F or 30’C. Which the summer girl in me loves… Haha, Andy is finally coerced into the eating the delectable apples and cider. I suspect he bought most of them from the Farmer’s Market 😀

    This was a great read as usual, and I hope this isn’t the last of the fall stories you have.

    1. Oh, yeah. You cannot compare an apple in a supermarket to an apple in the Farmer’s Market. Something with tomatoes. Mass produced just doesn’t have the same taste. (Also Macs don’t travel well.)

      I had some Australian friends with parents determined to give them a proper English Christmas as children. They would turn on the AC, close the windows, cook a roast, and the kids would be sweltering and wanting to go to the beach! Seasons mean different things to us all.

      Don’t worry. I started working on the Halloween post this week. 🙂

      1. Here in Australia Granny Smith apples are all the rage here. And, they are sour :O It really perplexes me. Then again, I suppose not everyone is a fan of sweet apples.

        That is interesting to hear of your Australian friends. Winter in July has become quite a thing here, and around Melbourne there are often Christmas trees set up to mimic the spirit of a white Christmas in the middle of the year.

        Looking forward to the next few posts 😉

        1. Oh, Granny Smiths are good, one of the few supermarket apples that still have taste! But fresh ones off the trees? Yeah, too sour for anything but apple pie.

          Pink Ladies are my favorite apples out here — sweet/ tart. I recommend those, if you can’t get a Mac!

          1. I really dislike Granny Smith apples for apple pies. Any kind of apple but that for apple pies for me 😀 Pink Ladies are popular too in Australia. I prefer them over Granny Smiths but they are the more expensive ones!

  4. Omg! I read your tag: “people from Hawaii don’t understand autumn”. Lol

    Are you referring to the season or yourself? 😉

  5. So…is he drinking pumpkin lattes? If he is you need an intervention. I’m not much for people fooling with my coffee either except for chocolate which makes anything better. It’s fall here in PA. Wish I could box up some brisk weather for you to enjoy! One other thing that’s great is the start of soup/stew season!

    1. It was 95 degrees here yesterday, even at the beach. We’ve been eating out because neither of us can bear the thought of turning on the oven. Or the burners. Or even the lights! (We’ve moved to a house with no AC since the events of this post.)

        1. Also an abomination. 😉 Actually, because we are so close to the beach, It rarely ventures into the 80s. We get a strong, cooling breeze. Prior to this year, there would only be two weeks every September which were miserable in the South Bay. This year, September and October have been 80s and even 90s. 🙁

          The old-timers around here are beginning warm up to the idea of climate change.

  6. What do elementary school teachers in southern California do? How do they decorate their bulletin boards without a change in seasons? How can kids dress up like Darth Vader if it’s too hot?

    1. I think fall decorations are everywhere, even in SoCal. So if the elementary school teachers are anything like the supermarkets, there’s probably fall leaves on their bulletin boards. Complete with pumpkin spice, no doubt.

      For Halloween, I’ve seen Power Rangers, so the kids are willing to swelter for candy. It’s the reverse of wearing a skimpy outfit in the east and enduring teeth chattering.

  7. Four seasons can be nice, but I for one prefer the endless status quo of Southern Californian terraformed desert… And it beats the awful sweaty humidity of South China anyway!

    Enjoy American Autumn, anywhere 🙂

    1. It’s been a lot more humid than in previous years, thanks to a few of Mexico’s monsoons veering our way.

      But once the Santa Anas start blowing, yeah, it is so very dry.

      Interestingly enough, I’ve heard that only China has seasonal colors that compare to New England’s fall foliage. But that would be much, much farther north.

  8. Oh Autumn, how I miss the season of your name.

    Like you I grew up in a place with four seasons. Since coming to California, I really miss being cold. Even a little bit. I miss wearing a coat, with scarves, mittens a sweater… Ahhhh. There’s nothing quite like drinking a hot cup of chocolate or warm cider outside when the weather is crisp and the air is fresh with cold.

    But yeah. That doesn’t happen here. Even drinking the Pumpkin Spiced Lattes taste like a lie.

    Last Monday it rained for a whole day. It was beautiful. It was 65 degrees. I went all out too and bought a pumpkin candle, an actual pumpkin, and other fall goodies. It felt like Autumn.

    Then the next day it was 90 again. Cry.

    I went to a pumpkin patch yesterday and it was 100 degrees. It was miserable. It aint right I’m tellin ya, it aint right. Not only did they not have cider, baked goods, or any other fall time treats–they instead had burritos, pizza and snow cones.

    Anyway, I feel ya. I think people that grew up in L.A. have a hard time understanding people that grew up with actual seasons… they just don’t get it!

    1. At least they had snow cones? But yeah, it just seems so off. Jarring. I think its easier if you just forget what season it is and enjoy the beach.

      Maybe next year I will take my own advice.

  9. My second date with Bill was going to an orchard for pumpkins, apples and cider. That was five years ago this weekend and we’re headed back to the scene of the crime. I was so happy when he suggested it! I love honeycrisp and McIntosh apples. My only complaint about fall is the shorter days. Otherwise, weather’s perfect. Glad you got a taste of New England!

  10. I also like autumn! Well, I am thinking about it and I like all the seasons. I am such a conformist. Well, I don’t like summer and winter in here (Shanghai/Suzhou) because it is too humid and hot/cold. But in Spain every season is lovely!

    I had never heard about the pumpkin spice coffees until last year I saw Starbucks had it and I started seeing it mentioned in several blogs… is it any good? I have never tried.

  11. I love fall, because I love cold and rainy weather, the more fog the better. And I started to love it even more since summers in Austria became so hot the last ten years.
    But what I can’t get used to are all these sweet pumpkin sweets from the US, like pumpkin spice pastry or Starbucks Pumkin Spice Latte. That is just so off.

    Also I can’t get used to Halloween, and how it is getting hyped more and more every year. On Saturday I talked with Mr.Panda’s 12 yearl old nephew. When he told me he’ll celebrate Halloween with his friends, I told him that there was no Halloween when we were small. He was so surprised and asked us what we celebrated then. I told him “Nothing, just harvest festival.” He was really amazed how we could survive without Halloween… Worked somehow. 😛

      1. Unfortunately there is no post as it is rather boring. You will have to wait for next year’s Easter, then you’ll see a desperate Mr.Panda in search of his easter eggs my mom hides for him every year. 😀

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