What is it about fall that makes us feel so warm and fuzzy inside?
Something about that reliable ol’ autumnal equinox turns even the most jaded of New Yorkers into smiling Pashmina wearers, and the most unfit New Englanders into hiking extraordinaires. I know because I have dabbled in both of these occupations: I grew up in Berkshire County, which meant that for 10 months out of the year I fought a boredom so fierce that it made Anne Frank’s time in the annex look like a trip to Disney. But for about two months out of the year I got to experience foliage so beautiful that even those city folk from New York would come visit.
Now I’m on the other end of the spectrum, having moved to NYC three years ago right around this time. While I miss the reds, yellows and oranges that blanket my Western Mass surroundings, as the weather gets colder my treks through Union Square remind me of my first weeks here, completely lost and Hop-Stopping my way through Manhattan. (As any of my friends will tell you, I’m still just as clueless when it comes to directions.)
So what is it about this season – that tiny sliver of time between the too hot and the too cold – that makes us go all giddy?
As a child, it was easy to identify what it was about fall that gave us butterflies in our stomachs. Knowing that a new school year was just around the corner, a new beginning, a chance to finally get it right. For many children, that meant Jansport backpacks, fresh notebooks, pencils and pens, and glossy Lisa Frank folders that you swore you’d finally keep organized. For the Bunt girls, it meant the same shitty Route 66 backpack you had the year before, and hand-me-down notebooks with the words “buttmunch” and “penis” scribbled throughout the pages.
What I find most ironic about the soft spot everybody holds for Autumn is that, in theory, it basically stands for the opposite of what we hold to be true. Less than “new beginnings,” fall really represents things coming to an end. Summer is over, plants are dying, leaves are changing and falling off of trees. Perhaps what gives us that warm and fuzzy feeling for fall isn’t because of what’s to come – football, holidays, those pumpkin spiced lattes that people won’t shut up about on Facebook – but nostalgia for what’s already happened.
It’s almost as if we become nostalgic for nostalgia. “I remember this time last year when I was doing xy and z…” It’s like the colors, scents and sounds of fall cement those moments in time in scrapbook form. When the summer rolls around, I don’t think back to all of the awesome summers I had before. Quite the opposite: I am making plans for months in advance and completely booking up all of my weekends.
Maybe our crazy packed summer schedules are part of the reason why fall is such a reflective time of year. Our weekends have finally cleared up, we’re about to be blitzed with the holidays, and it’s the one chunk of time that we can look back at all of the memories we just spent the last few months making, and just sit and enjoy them.