Sunday, October 4, 2009

Praise for Pumpkin Season

This past Thursday I woke up feeling normal and then around mid-afternoon it hit me. It was October first. Which might be insignificant to most people but I happen to have an intense dislike for this particular month for one really big reason. The 28th of October will mark the nine year anniversary of the death of my younger and only sister. It should be old hat by this time, but every year, as the date approaches, it gets a little harder to breathe, the smiles don't come as easy and tears flow a little faster. October is also the harbinger of the holiday season, two months filled with occasions that are still joyous but will never again exist in my life without the salty-sour tang of bittersweet. And finally, in mid-January, a season that begins in October with a memorial of her exit from this world, ends with another memorial of the day she first arrived.

A very good friend has often said, in regards to the loss of her own sister, "A world does not exist where my sister did not die." It's a poignant statement, and a potent reminder to me that the life I am living is the only option I get. I'm certain that what I've gone through presents a strong argument for my right to wallow in sorrow and self-pity. To blame everything that is bad in my world on this one defining moment. To let it make me bitter and angry. But that's not really my style. Not to mention the fact that my sister would kick my ass if she caught me doing any of that. So to that end, it's high time I took a moment to remind myself of some of the things there are to like about October.

A Change in the Air
Yes, even in Los Angeles, we have at least a semblance of seasons. And because we have an Indian Summer, with temperatures still peaking in the triple digits late in September, it's usually not till October that we get our first glimpse of fall. Today was just such a day. When I opened the back door to let my dog out this morning, there was a crisp coolness I hadn't felt in quite a while. It lingered despite the sunny day and I found myself reaching for a long sleeved shirt and pulling out my favorite pair of bunny slippers for the first time since spring. When summer comes around, I'm usually ready for warm nights and a chance to pull out my sundresses. But once the soaring temperatures that take up residence in the San Fernando Valley have outstayed their welcome by hanging around in late September, I always find myself yearning for a chance to break out my overzealous collection of cashmere sweaters. I'm probably going on twenty-plus, and yes, I know I have a problem. Sure, we'll probably have a few more warms days ahead, later this week, in fact. But I doubt it'll break ninety, and soon enough, the cooler weather will win out, and my only challenge will be which color to wear.

Tasty Treats
Some of my favorite things to cook require a proximity to the holiday season and the aforementioned declining temperatures. Pies and soups and foods with the rich flavors of sage and cinnamon don't go well with a scorching hot day. October means the start of my favorite cooking time of year. A chance to break out my butternut squash soup recipe, a time to roast, well, anything, and a perfect month for a hot apple pie, fresh from the oven. Plus, October means that Thanksgiving is just around the corner and that my annual Christmas party, which is partially an excuse for me to cook for three days, will come quickly on it's heels. Cooking has always been therapeutic for me. The process both distracting and soothing, and the end result rewarding.

It has always been one of my favorite holidays. A chance to dress up and play make believe for a night is a thrill that to be perfectly honest, has not waned all that much since I was a little girl. And in the years following my sister's death, the holiday has provided a welcome distraction. Each year, the challenge of coming up with and creating a new costume has been a creative outlet for my pain. And the Halloween festivities have been a welcome celebration on the heels of a tumultuous day. A chance to let loose, let my hair down, or put it up, and for a few hours, be anyone else but me.

I'm not saying I don't have bad days, because I do. And I think I'm probably entitled to a good cry or a day in my p.j.'s every now and then. But I don't want to throw myself a pity party everyday for what has happened to me. I don't want to let it run or ruin my life. And sometimes, the joy is in finding the little things that make you smile along with the tears. Like a new cashmere sweater on a crisp fall day. Or a slice of warm apple pie, topped with a great big gob of melting ice cream. Or a day when it's okay for even an adult to wear a pair of wings. Reminders that even in this world, the one where my sister did die, there are some pretty okay things.