About this time of year I begin to look for that first tingle on the cheeks, or on the tip of the nose.
That’s the true signal for the end of summertime.
Schools started up way too early way back in August, and the calendar says summer ended last month.
But I and most of you know better. Neither were the signal for the end of summertime.
Some of the best days of summertime are these days, the warm, sunny days of October. They call it Indian summer. The Indians had a great idea.
The air is dry and clear, the lower-angled sun puts a shimmer on the land, and spirits rise. It even fosters hope that they just might forget winter this go-round, what with global warming and all. It came close to it last winter.
We’ve been getting all these false alarms for the end of summertime.
I always note with puzzlement when the wild cherry tree in the yard drops its leaves in early September. What a waste, I thought, with so much warm weather to go.
That tree’s not fooling me. I knew it was not time yet.
Not long after that the wood stove that sat stored in a corner of the basement all summertime began begging me to get all that stuff off the top of it and set it and the stove pipes back up for the cold weather. Not so fast, I admonished. It’s not time yet.
Next came the walnut trees, with their incessant noise. Yes, noise.
Dad planted all those walnut-tree sprouts many years ago, and now I have to deal with the mature, nut-bearing trees.
I’ll be out on the porch watching the ball game in the hammock, and those trees will start dropping their walnuts.
Plop, one will go during a commercial when I have the TV sound lowered. Pow, three at a time will fall to the ground. On and on it’ll go, throughout the game.
It’s a drumbeat of approaching winter. But it’s not the special signal.
It was a sad, rainy September morning when I went out to feed the dog in my summer shorts. As I sat there while the dog ate the morning’s chill started creeping onto my bare legs, enhanced by very-low atmospheric pressure and evaporating raindrops on my skin.
“This is a sad day,” I told her the next morning as I pulled my work pants out of the closet at dog-feeding time and I hung up the thin summer shorts.
Even the spell of cold rain last week did not send me the signal. I just put on the windbreaker with the hood and took off out the door without a second thought.
None of those signs, those false alarms, was the signal that I’m looking for.
Here’s the genuine signal. It’s when you get up one morning and, as you go out the door, the cool shoots a little tingle into your face.
Now, it’s just as cool in the fourth quarter of the Friday night football game. The temperature drops, the aluminum bleachers grow cold, and the bare arms chill. It’s worse if your team is getting whupped real good.
But you don’t notice the fourth-quarter chill so much. No, the signal that sticks in your mind is the one you get when you go out the door fresh from a warm, morning shower. The familiar, cold tingle strikes your cheeks for the first time of the season.
You exhale to see if you can view your breath. You can’t, but the tingle tells you nevertheless this is it. This is the signal. Summertime is gone.
I had a full summer. I hope you did, too. I didn’t get everything done but you can’t do everything, especially when you drop down a gear as most folks do at this age.
With the special signal you take a deep, long breath and relax a bit. The hectic summer vacations are long gone, and the outdoor chores are done, or they should be if they are going to get done this season.
With the first morning tingle you breathe in the chilly, morning air and hold it in for a bit. You haven’t smelled such clean freshness since March.
Should you go back in the house and get a sweater? No, no need to go overboard, not quite yet. It’ll warm up in a hour or two.
But you review in your mind your wardrobe of long-sleeved shirts and other cold-weather clothes back in the house. You’re going to have to move them out of storage or from the back of the closet. And you’d better do it soon.
And there is color in the trees, building to nature’s autumn crescendo. You’d better start thinking of taking a trip up in the mountains to see the leaves. You’d better do it this weekend or the next; you don’t want to wait too late.
Because you have the signal.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.