Today was cold—the first crisp day of autumn. Our air conditioning quit sometime yesterday, and so after a night spent at temps up to 92 in the warmest parts of the house, we opened up all the windows this morning and felt the cold front as it descended with its spicy scents and promises of the best kind of cold. In Texas, these few chilly days bring the kind of excitement that is usually only seen in children, shaking with inexpressible joy on one of their first Christmas mornings. Who knew life could be so good?
To see adults tremble with this child-like joy is magic. Our eyes sparkle. We don’t mind going up to the attic to pull out the sweaters. We stop somewhere on the way home to pick up a log for the fire & maybe even—ludicrously—leave the windows open so we can have a fire now. Tonight. While the magic promise of cinnamon is still on the air. Because soon enough, that cinnamon will freeze into delicate little snow flakes. Yes, here in Texas. Remember, this is the feel of the weather change. It’s imaginary.
So while we don’t mind going up to the attic this one time of the year, I’m not personally going up there. That’s my husband’s realm. And when there was enough of a snap to the cold in the house, I began looking for a sweater here in my own kingdom.
You know the quiet of an army laying siege? The feel inside the castle walls of something too quiet, something made of shadows slithering silently nearby? My crisp autumn day was like that. The coffee that should have tasted better on this day than any other—save Christmas, maybe—was bitter. Cold too soon when it should have offered warmth.
It was when I went for a sweater and realized that there was only one not in the attic that the darkness could be seen. I hesitated. And then I gave myself over to it. I dug through the depths of my closet, past the bags of clothes that are still too little, a year after baby was born, past forgotten gifts and mismatched shoes to the sweater I’d known was there.
It’s not really a sweater. It’s a hoodie, black once, missing the tongue to its zipper, but it still zips. One pocket torn halfway off, but both still good for warming hands. All it has really lost is its smell. The day I brought it home, it stank of sweat and sawdust and tobacco, and I buried my face in it and wept.
I haven’t worn it since that day, although I’ve held it and smelled it, but I’d worn it before, in another chilly climate that paid no heed to changing seasons, where every day was the first of autumn, crisp and cool. That should have made it possible to plan an appropriate wardrobe, but you forget. When a place has a climate all its own, it’s easy to forget when you’re away too long, and so you pack for warmer weather and are so grateful then to find a vacant hoodie, even if it has a broken zipper.
The faded cotton jacket was vacant today. I pulled it about me, zipped it halfway up despite its missing tongue, and made hot chocolate for my kids. I want them to know the wonder of the first day of autumn, too, the smell of cinnamon, the magic and invisible sparkle of the day rich with color and promise, even if there’s something missing they can never fully know.