A changeful page

“To make this Earth, our hermitage,
A cheerful and a changeful page,
God’s bright and intricate device
Of days and seasons doth suffice.”

- The House Beautiful, Robert Louis Stevenson


Turning the leaves of my life, the most cheerful and changeful pages have come in autumn.

My favorite season arrives today at 5:18 p.m. ET when the autumnal equinox begins in the Northern Hemisphere.

How thankful I am, looking back into the earliest chapters of my life, to have lived in a time so simple a little girl could cherish poster paints, crayons, pencils, tablets and crisp new workbooks as she readied her new booksack for the first day of school. (That was when school actually started in the fall.)

Fall was Halloween and homemade costumes and gathering sacks of candy in a three-mile radius from home. For little kids with little money for candy, it was dumping our bounty on the living room floor and divvying up favorites with my brother Isaac. No one spoiled the moment by telling us sweets were bad for us.

A highlight of the fall social season came on the first really cold day, when neighbors and relatives arrived at my grandparents’ farm for the hog-killing.

I recall no character-altering trauma as I watched my Poppa Timmons shoot the animals in the head, then hang them in the trees to be gutted. Farmhands dipped them in drums of boiling water to loosen stiff hairs before scraping away the only thing on the hogs that would not be eaten.

All the grandkids pitched in, making souse, cooking cracklings and slinging chitlins as men hung hams and roasts and slabs of bacon in the smokehouse ceiling. Aside from the purchase of flour, sugar, coffee, spices and vanilla flovoring, most of what would sustain the family (and company) through winter was preserved that day.

The falls of my teen years brought high school and Ole Miss football and Malone’s taffy, candy apples and corn dogs at the Mississippi State Fair.

In 1985, when I moved to South Carolina, fall’s big event was the opening of the county fair, just a stone’s throw out my front door – all the sights and sounds and smells and the free nightly concerts and fireworks from my porch’s front-row seat.

How sad it was for me when a few years back Anderson University bought the fairgrounds, and those special September moments came no more.

Having grown up among pine trees, fall took on more meaning as I walked beneath the brilliant canopies of broadleaf trees on one of the country’s most beautiful campuses at Southern Illinois University- Carbondale.

Later, drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville, N.C., to the top of Mount Mitchell brought palettes of fall colors in breathtaking vistas across mountainsides.

Despite all that piques the senses, anyone who has lived their life in the Southeast knows the main reason fall is my favorite season of the year – that first brisk snap in the air and saying so long to summer’s energy-sapping humidity.

It’s a time for sharpened pencils and carved pumpkins and turkeys, not Christmas decorations in stores. And, if there’s a fair near you, please send me a candy apple.


Falzone for America said...

Oh my gosh BJ.

What a beautiful mind you have, and what wealth of experience. Writing was the only way for you to sufficiently provide us a window into it.

I'm looking into the candied apples.

Good Southern Man said...

Please write more about the Timmons. I was so elated to read about poppa Timmons this morning! You have an appreciation for food and life that I wish everyone had. My mom tells the story of Daddy and Mamma Pell bringing home a hog's head and eating every bit from making hog's head cheese to eating the tongue like liver. I am a meat eater as are many on this earth and people that are not from the south see meat like a piece of fruit. They pick it from the grocery tree. I remember cleaning fish and preparing deer and that gave me such a respect for animals. It is not only a matter of waste not want not. The waste of an animal better be unedible or unuseable or you have done a great diservice to the animal and the earth. Thanks so much BJ.

Debra said...

I know you have a gift for politics, but to me your real gift is in remembering your past and sharing the stories with your family and friends.
Now YOU are why I love my aunt B.J. so much. I thrive on the stories of your youth and our youth. You are so gifted and so eloquently spoken. You make reading fun. I can see, hear, smell and feel the excitement in the personal story you are telling. Please keep writing and please keep us informed of any recollection you have of your life. You are truly an amazing individual. The fair will be in Jackson Oct. 7th (my 56th birthday) through the 15th. I will be sending some Malone's taffy your way. Take care Aunt B.J.
I love you, Deb
(my favorites at the fair-taffy, cotton candy, red-candied apples, Penn's chicken on a stick and walking around looking at all the people-don't care about the rides.)

Bill Sumrall said...

I enjoyed reading your early memories this morning and I also recall with pleasure visits in time for the fair in Anderson across the way. I've always looked forward to the changing of the seasons from summer into fall. Thanks for reminding us about these days.

Sue said...

Beautiful trip down memory lane BJ! Your life as a young girl sounds heavenly. I love Fall too, its my favorite season and I could not live in a state where there was no change of seasons. Here in NJ the signs of an early Fall are all around us, leaves are falling, gardens are dying, pumpkins and mums are for sale at the farmstands and people are stocking up on wood for their fireplaces, I LOVE it! Happy Fall BJ!!

Tiny said...

BJ, you made Tiny homesick for the hills of her favorite time of the year. Her school always started the first Monday after Labor Day weekend. The hillsides ablaze with those brilliant colors of every hue was a picture no human hands could ever paint. For her, those hazy days always had a sense of mystique in the air. It was a time for exploring caves, gathering hickory nuts, black walnuts and other gifts from Mother Nature's great storehouse.

Dusty said...

My son's birthday is Oct 31st!

that is a good thing as I suck at remembering birthdays. ;)

How ya doin' girlfriend? Sorry I haven't been around much..too many things on my plate.