When we hear the words, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” we know Andy Williams’ cheerful voice is singing about Christmas. Only he shouldn’t. Because the most wonderful time of the year is right now — fall time.
Consider how fall makes us feel. Happy! The Christmas season does too, of course. But that holiday also heralds in anxiety (sometimes depression), a ridiculously long list of to-dos, immovable traditions and an overwhelming expectation to do it “right” (whatever that means). There’s a certain nervousness that begins about now, creeps through the Halloween season, ramps up through the short-circuited Thanksgiving season, and explodes the day after turkey day. Why else does Black Friday thrive? We’re anxiously trying to “do” Christmas.
But we don’t “do” fall. We just enjoy it. There’s much to be happy about in the fall, starting with corn. Yes, corn. Local corn, to be exact. Not that early, chewy, too-white corn that’s carted in from some distant state that doesn’t know how to grow corn. No, we wait for the yellow-with-white-kernels-scattered-through-it corn trucked in from nearby fields early in the morning. It sits in wooden bins waiting for us to come pack it into our bags by the baker’s dozen and haul it home to husk, dehair, boil, slather in butter and salt, and eat until our sides hurt. The corn harvest is one of the greatest happiness producers of the year.
All the other produce also makes us happy. While we’re picking through the corn, we’re distracted by everything else at the fruit stand. Ooooh, there’s peppers. And tomatoes. Salsa! I have to make some salsa! Oh, and potatoes — three kinds! A whole mound of pumpkins! And watermelon. Hooray for watermelon! Look, they’ve got beets here. And squash. And sacks of onions! Oh, and look at these peaches! And apples! I’m so happy here!
We don’t actually say all those words out loud — it might scare the people around us. But we think them — happily think them while we buy out the fruit stand.
Along with the harvest of all that produce comes another happy realization that our gardening days are drawing to a close. It’s a bittersweet feeling. But after the long summer of caring for gardens, flowerbeds, trees, and lawns, it’s a relief to step down from it. We harvest the last of everything, cut the plants back, trim the trees, roll up the hoses, hang up the weeding fork (possibly the happiest part of all) and smile. Happy because it’s been a good year, happy for the winter break and especially happy to see the wretched weeds dying off.
Fall leaves are another happiness generator. We drive through a local canyon, take gobs of photos, post them online and proclaim that the leaves have never been prettier than they are this year. We say that every year. And we mean it because they are — at least to us. We share them because they make us happy.
Another reason we smile this time of year is because school is back in session. Yes, it’s been fun to spend the summer with the kids. And now we’re happy to send them back to school. Absence will make our hearts grow fonder (again). And there’s joy in knowing our kids are learning, growing, thriving and overcoming challenges. It makes us very happy — as do those few precious hours we now have to ourselves each day. Happy, happy, happy!
Halloween must generate at least as many smiles as Christmas does. The entire Halloween scene is kind of a morbid, head-scratching mystery that involves gutting and carving pumpkins, reveling in fearful events complete with gory dioramas and frightful creatures, dressing in macabre costumes, and encouraging our kids to take candy from strangers. Halloween generates enough happiness to make us smile right through our masks.
Perhaps Andy Williams should sing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With the kids trick or treating and everyone eating up corn by the ear. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s the hap-happiest season of all. With the gardens producing and everyone choosing to welcome the fall. It’s the hap-happiest season of all! There’ll be peaches for canning. School parties for planning. And colorful leaves all aglow. There’ll be scary ghost stories. And tales of the glories of Halloweens long, long ago! It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With the apple pie baking. And everyone making their way to good cheer. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
Fall time actually is wonderful. So enjoy it. All that other holiday busyness is just around the corner.