CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- October holds a fascination for me as no other month or time I know. There is a feeling I have of completeness which is difficult to describe. I was born in the last days of September, so possibly the month of October is embedded as my first mortal memories of comfort and content associated with this world.
I suffer through the summer heat and humidity waiting for the cool, soft days of autumn which I hold so dear. The skies are intensely blue and the clouds white, full and airy; the same I viewed as a child in storybooks, perfect and untroubled. They were easy to color with crayons and chalk, controllable and consistent.
I fret every year that October is so brief, lasting a mere four weeks and then gone so quickly lost to the other seasons. The fall brings with it anticipation of warm crackling fireplaces, steamed kitchen windows and plaid woolen skirts and, of course, the holidays. As a child, I remember the feel and smell of autumn from its warm beginning to its cold and rainy end. Each day seemed new and full of promise; a new school year, my birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, all shoved tightly into a 12-week package.
As the seasons and years pass in our lives, I suppose we all reflect on special memories. As a very young child, maybe 5, I recall long walks in the neighboring woods with my aging grandfather. He was tall to me, walked with a limp and a cane due to a wooden leg. I remember looking up at him with his chaw of tobacco and smell of wintergreen mints emanating from his shirt pocket. We would shuffle through the colored leaves that packed the path accompanied by our two Boston terriers that would be on "mad sniffing hunts" for something they never seemed to find. I too would search the fallen leaves for acorns "with and without caps" and various other woodland treasures to fill his pockets. The scent of autumn's fermentation to winter would drift in the cool breezes bringing red, gold and yellow leaves to cling to our sweaters and shoes.
I also recall being maybe 8 years old and walking through an empty wooded lot with a boy named Steven. It was a warm, bright fall school day afternoon, and the sun filtered through golden leaves clinging to the drying trees. I wore a yellow dress and had my long brown hair pulled up into a ponytail with matching ribbons. He had short hair with bangs in the front, typical of the 1960s hairstyles. This was my first adventure. I recall being the center of attention of the opposite sex, and I felt very feminine and protected as he cleared our way through the piles of leaves and brush. If I find myself in the warm woods of autumn, smell the sweet scent of the leaves and look up into the filtered light, I can close my eyes and see myself and Steven walking in the woods almost 50 years ago.
Of course Halloween was magical and still is for me after all of these years. The Halloween sky was invariably a silver, smoky gray with slivers of deep purple and fuchsia backing a huge golden moon. The air was sweet and cool yet sparking with excitement of frightful delights waiting just around a corner or behind the next door. Our house was old with a large painted wooden porch that creaked with fatigue when the weather turned cooler.
I can remember standing on the porch viewing the blacktop road and all of the scary jack-o-lanterns lining the street waiting for the witching hour. We would run from house to house, our pillow case bags bulging with chocolates and homemade popcorn balls gathered from grannies in flowered dresses.
Even now I can look at the sky and remark "Ah, look this is a Halloween sky," and my family knows what I am saying. As fairies, ghosts and goblins come and go so quickly on All Hallows Eve, so does the month of October.