Our house has been decorated to the nines for some weeks now in preparation for Halloween. The day we broke out the decorations T. was beside herself with excitement. As we pulled out the Rubbermaid bins with the decorations we spied the Christmas bins lurking not far behind them, and then on top of a shelf I found the Thanksgiving placements from the preschool years: T.'s with her funny handprint leaves and L.'s with a splash of colors. It struck me then that maybe what I love the most about this time of the year is that the fall and winter holidays give us a chance to pull out all the wonderful, nostalgic treasures from the past, to see those small handprints frozen in time, behind their laminated plastic, or to remember just what the day was like, two years ago, when T. and I made our paper stars for the Christmas tree.
Fall and winter are two of my favorite seasons, and they always have been. I love the clean slate fall always seems to symbolize to me--a new semester, and new beginnings. I love the promise of the fall and winter holidays to come: Halloween and Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas and a chance to go home, and have a big family holiday all together, to relive the Christmases from my childhood. I love the magic we spin for our children this time of the year, and I even love dreaming about the first snowfall, and imagining snow days at home.
Despite all of this, all the love and passion I have for the fall and winter seasons, this time of the year is always the most difficult for us. This has been the case for years and years now. The first few weeks of the winter after T. was born passed in a whirlwind of joy-mixed-with-sadness (my grandfather passed away not long after she was born) mixed-with-worry; we were sucked into a spiral of frustration and utter, mind-blocking exhaustion from T.'s colic, and a constant, gnawing, fear as we shuffled our new baby to specialist after specialist in preparation for her surgery that spring. We put her surgery behind us only to have her seizures start that fall, and there we were again, caught in another cycle of fear and worry. The winter L. was six-years old was a dark and frightening one. We had no diagnosis, only a sense that something was going terribly wrong with L.'s world and we didn't know how to fix it. Those stormy and painful fall and winter months culminated in one awful night in January that was, for us, the tipping point. We sought help and began to find our way--if not out into the light--than onto a path toward it. The rest is history, as they say, but a history that keeps on changing and shifting.
I was thinking about this discord the other day--the discord that exists between the seasons I love, and yet the seasons that historically for us have been and still are the most challenging to get through. I wonder often, will it always be this way? Will every change from summer into fall bring with it that sense of steeling ourselves, battening down those proverbial hatches, for challenges to come?
I expect that for L. fall and winter will continue to be difficult for him, as he navigates through the changes this time of the year always seems to bring. This fall has been no exception. The holidays, the expectations, the stress of family gatherings (for him), the overabundance of food and the emotional roller-coaster ride of expectations met and unmet, are often just too much for him. Every year, when the New Year has come and gone, and we're safely through Feburary and into March, we can almost see him exhale along with us. It's as if he steps out onto a new landscape, looks around, and thinks, "I've made it through"--through into a better, comforting rhythym, the end of that ever-tulmutuous, ever-rocky journey into spring.