Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Morning Thanks--Autumnal advent


The summer of the American Bicentennial, 1976, was the summer we moved to Siouxland.  We'd lived here before, both of us, but had spent some great years in Arizona.  A college teaching contract here brought us back, three of us, my wife, myself, and a daughter not yet six months old.  Oh, and a cat I hauled, howling (him, not me--well, sometimes me back at him) all the way from Phoenix. 

'Twas hot, I remember, and vastly more humid than either of remembered or could have imagined.  Our rental house wasn't air-conditioned, so we got ourselves a cheap, used window unit, stuck it in our baby daughter's far-corner bedroom, and spent most of our nights somewhere close to that end of the house, all three of us. 

One August night, I needed beer.  Way back then, there was only one outlet for such sin, Doc's Cafe, the soul of transgression in old, righteous Sioux Center.  I chanced it.  I hadn't yet begun to teach at the college, no one knew me, and in all that heat, a man born and reared in Wisconsin knows of only one way to douse the flames--Milwaukee's liquid gold.

When I walked in the bar to pick up a six-pack to go, the bartender recognized me--after all, I'd been a student only six years before and, sadly, must have been somewhat memorable. "The word is, you're going to teach here," he said, smirking.  I nodded as he put that beer in a bag.  "No kidding?" he said, shaking his head as if he'd just seen pigs fly.

Anyway, it was hot.  Very hot, but what I remember best about my first weeks of school that late summer was an older colleague, someone I'd had myself as a prof years before, telling me, in the parking lot, how much he was looking forward to October.  "Can't wait for it to get cool," he said, or something to that effect. 

No matter how hot it was, that line stuck with me because neither my wife nor I looked forward to winter.  We were Arizonians, after all, fresh from the land of the snow birds.  How could anyone honestly look forward to a minus-forty wind chill and sideways snow that felt like a ratchet against your face?  Was he serious?

Yes, he was.  And it didn't take more than a year for me to climb aboard that bandwagon.  Neither he nor I, I imagine, really find ourselves right now wishing for January; but that doesn't mean that we aren't sick unto death of the heat, that we aren't pining for the time when a sport coat won't get sopping wet around the back of the neck when you hold forth in a classroom, or that whatever shirts you wear grow sinfully dark halos around the arm pits. 

Last night, for the first time in months, we made it through the night with the sheet tucked in and a cotton blanket over us.  Generally, we sleep in a sheet from late May until just about now, and by morning that single sheet covers us (sometimes) like swaddling clothes.  This morning, once the sun rises, our bed will still look almost military. 

The times--which is to say, this morning, the seasons-- are a'changin'.  And I couldn't be happier. 

Our official veggie supplier's Farmer's Almanac must have told her that Jack Frost is coming tonight.  She let out a note asking all of her customers that if anyone was a buddy, she'd be thrilled if we could talk him into postponing a visit for a week or two yet. 

I'm not wishing for January either.

But this morning's thanks are for fall, because we're getting there, and I for one don't mind one cool bit.

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