“Life starts all over again as it gets crisp in the fall.” Scott Fitzgerald said it, although man do I wish it had been me. Instead, I’ll say this:
Seasons are like songs, and if you bother to think about it, you’ll find this is quite true. Seasons can jog a memory the way a first bar or note can inspire a guttural reaction you simply cannot override. Similar to the way hearing “it’s Usher, baby” (note: Usher must be pronounced like “Ursher”) can send any twenty-something into fateful memories of the first time they got down and dirty at a middle school social. There is a particular temperature the air drops to in fall that is synonymous with memories of football games and high school parties. There is a time of autumn twilight which, admittedly, reminds me of young girls fussed up for the homecoming dance, a smattering of nervous boys who probably don’t deserve to take them waiting in their cars (or, more realistically, their mom’s cars) with either very good or very bad intentions.
Sometimes I think particular aspects of my childhood were too Norman Rockwell. I rode my bike to school until I was sixteen, at which point I started driving my truck, parking proudly in the front lot on golden, misty mornings, conveniently in the same area where the entire baseball team also parked. This was aggressively not a coincidence. On fall weekends, hayrides and corn mazes marked our calendars. My first boyfriend maybe asked me out next to a pumpkin patch.
It’s fall now. And everything is very different than the picture I just painted, yet I am reminded of that image repeatedly. There’s no being asked to wear the second-string quarterback’s jersey, no breaking into the pool to tarp-run after games. (Aside: if you don’t know what tarp-running is, I’m deeply sorry for your loss.) I have not worn my letterman jacket once since senior year, though I will shamefully admit to you I promised my parents it was an investment that would pay me dividends well into adulthood. (Mom, look at the quilting, the leather!) It pays nothing. Instead it collects sweet, nostalgic dust.
Fall screams teenage-hood. I fear it always will.
On my bus ride to work, I see high schoolers in their stupendous, insecure and infallible youth. Glued to their phones, wanting to be older, wanting to be younger, wanting to ditch English class and quit the soccer team. Wishing Sara would hit them up after class but dammit didn’t you hear, she’s already asked Jake.
I realize I am almost an antiquated example of American girlhood. I am supposed to be tougher than this. And while some of my days spent as a basic youth were so sweet the memory gives me toothaches, I loved the world considerably more once I came to see it painted in a thousand colors, rather than the one-dimensional, rosy shade of adolescence.
I also realize something else. The pitch and key of life changes. The story doesn’t. In five years these overgrown children I see on my daily commute will become undergrown adults like me. They’ll stay at dive bars until physically kicked out. They’ll cling to Saturday nights, steadying themselves on parking meters as they force feed their sorry hearts to beautiful boys or teasing girls. They will still want to be older and younger. They will wish they could ditch their job and they will wish they had time to join an intramural soccer team. They will wish Alex would ask them out but dammit didn’t you hear, he’s a little caught up stringing four girls along on Hinge.
So I’ll let them have their fall, and I hope theirs are potent and promising as mine were. As mine are. And I hope the rest of us can reinvent a season. In this city. On those mischievous autumn nights. That always have been good to us.
// Photography by Hai Phung and Izabela Monick. Want to contribute? Write us an email here.