I will always remember the sights and smells of early September. The unofficial end of summer, school began right after labor day and along with school came the cooler mornings and that unmistakeable autumn smell in the air. A twist of changing leaves, falling temperatures, maturing pumpkins, and shorter days all add to the smells of autumn.
I attended parochial elementary school on Long Island and for the most part rode my bicycle to school every day. After school I had a paper route that took me through some of the older neighborhoods of Mineola. The trees along Mineola Boulevard were huge in comparison to the trees on my street, Helen Road, in Mineola. While most days the delivery of the Long Island Press, a newspaper that fell to the mighty Newsday in the 60’s, was relatively easy the only real difficulty I ever encountered was delivering during snow. I can remember many an evening, my father finding me pushing the bike through the snow and letting down the tailgate of the Rambler station wagon, he’d put the bike in the back and I’d ride on the tailgate with my papers. We were only allowed to “flip” or throw the paper when it was good weather and then it had to land on the front step. Often during cold weather, as I’d make my route placing the paper inside the storm door or under the mat, the door would open and I’d be invited inside for some hot chocolate. The warmth of the homes, the hot chocolate, just served to slow me down, but I would not have missed it for the world.
Once we moved to the center of the island in a town called Lake Ronkonkoma, my newspaper delivering days were short-lived. The newspaper was going out of business and besides, I was a high
school student riding the bus to school initially and then driving once I got my driver’s license. At the end of my street, Eckland Blvd where it intersected Brown’s Road, if you took a left tun and headed towards my grandfather’s bungalow on Armon’s Street, as soon as you turned on Brown’s Road you were facing a Y; Brown’s Road went to the left and Hawthorn Avenue to the right. In the center of that Y was a beautiful old Oak tree. The oak’s leaves would start at the very top and slightly to the right, to turn colors as fall approached. Every day I’d watch this image of nature’s clock as the color slowly spread down the trunk. When the tree was in full color you would see the top of the tree, where the rays of the autumn sun hit the tree first with the morning light, was starting to lose its leaves. Gradually, as September turned to October and Halloween approached, the tree’s last leaves clinging to the bottom branches gave the tree a x-ray type image, its arms stretched wide, waiting for the snow to blanket its branches and cover its skin.
School and schedules have changed much over the past 50 years. Many schools start as early as the end of July in the South. This allows for a Fall Break where then families go “Leaf Peeping,” traveling north in many cases to view the display of Autumns colors. While tree are several places in the south to see the changing leaves, the real beautiful trees are in the north and out west in Colorado. I remember one fall season when we lived in Aurora Colorado, we traveled to the mountains on another weekend of hiking and biking adventure, and the leaves actually “sing” as the wind blows through them in the fall. The Aspen trees turn a golden color and are identical in size, they rub against each other and the music produced by these leaves, the birds in the trees, and the wind all produced Autumn’s song in the mountains of Colorado.
I don’t know if my children will remember the mountains and the trips we took there as well as I remember that oak on Brown’s Road, but it is such a vivid memory that it comes to me every September. Makes me nostalgic for my grandfather’s house, for coffee with my mother after school, for my dad driving me around in the snow, for the sights and smells of the season that is my favorite, Autumn.