Volume 74, Number 29 | November 24 - 30, 2004


Notebook


The autumn of my years…and Bush sure isn’t helping

By Wickham Boyle

I can’t stop crying. I thought I was finished with the hormonal storms that preceded my period in youth and seemed to entwine me nearly constantly in the final years of full-blown menopause. And yet here I am, one moment content riding my bike against traffic, pedaling to the gym on a foggy fall day, when without warning the waterworks start.

It’s late autumn and the crumpled leaves — red, ochres, aubergine and brown —cover the sidewalk and sneak into the street, the wind whipping, stirring them in a frenzy. I am filled with emotion.

Maybe it’s the shorter days, less light; maybe it is not having small children on whom I can lavish attention for holidays, decorations and treats, or maybe I feel all this sadness because I recognize my own personal autumn. Like the calendar, I notice that I have less of my season left than I have already consumed.

Strange to be sad about this, because in the calendar, fall is my favorite season. It is when I was born; it encompasses going back to school, a place I was always so happy; it means cooler weather — even shorter days, which I have encoded as longer nights, more time to snuggle and a better time to cook stews, roasts and bake goodies. Why can’t my own middle age be this same joyful time?

When I am in an emotionally positive place I can see that when my children grow up and move out on their own, it will be a fine thing. I am proud of their accomplishments that are as different as day and night. My daughter loves social change, my son the personal politics of sports. They are as diverse as their sea blue eyes from the tree brown; from her diminutive self to his stocky, muscular form. When I can envision them as safe, solid and fulfilled I can breathe a little, knowing that I helped them sail on their disparate ways.

When I am in a dark place, I miss the baby children, the needy little ones, the giggling piles of squealing friends wearing costumes, and begging for a half hour more of bedtime. I miss all the questions about the universe, the origins of God, sex or vocabulary. It is a wonderful moment, being a young mother to baby children. It is a time when you have all the answers and the questions are unending. But time marches.

And in autumn, I have a man who loves me, and who really makes an effort to give me what I am whining will make me happier. He loved the round me I was, and the even rounder me that I am in middle age. He works in his chosen field and he encouraged me to take a leap of faith and find my own muse and course. Sometimes when the travel bug bites me we venture forth, but he equally loves to stay home on the couch. He watches more TV than I would and doesn’t read books as much as I wish. But beyond that he brings coffee in the morning and ends the night with kisses; what comes in between is immaterial.

On a macro level, I am terrified about my world and the world in which my children and my eventual grand-babies will live. I am frozen, heartsick and stomach churning from the outcome of the recent election. I can no longer watch or listen to the president of the United States; I scream from the other room if the news is on. I have lost my mind with that man, the role he crafted for us in world events and the fear that they have so neatly sewn onto all of us. I have assumed a mini-posture of personal uncertainty that is mirrored, unfortunately by the world.

So I am crying, pulled over to the side of the street with my tears now no longer drippy, sporadic drops but a gushing torrent. I am an autumnal tsunami. I am so filled with a sense of both hope and dread that these waves crash around my shores rendering me immobile in a pile of leaves blown to the side of the street.

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