Tomorrow I go back to work to prepare for the new school year, which starts on Monday. I’m certainly not bursting with ecstasy that my little break is over, but I will be grateful to see the 110-degree weather start to fade (in another four weeks or so we’ll start leaving the triple digit temperatures behind–hopefully!), and this summer hasn’t been all that productive or relaxing, anyway. I won’t shed any tears to see it go.
But at this landmark in the calendar, I want to focus on some of my favorite things about the upcoming stage of the year. Due to my work schedule and the weather here in Las Vegas, I define “Autumn” as the period between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Here, in chronological order, are some of the things I’m most looking forward to in the coming three months, including the days I expect to be there:
- The new school year. This is even better than New Year’s for making resolutions. I was a little disappointed with a lot of details about the last school year, and spent the last week of school drawing up a list of new ideas and procedures for myself to make this year more effective. I’ve added to it over the summer. Even aside from that, this is the part of the year when nobody can resist the optimism of a fresh start, of meeting new students, of the unlimited potential that new classes imply. I enjoy the rituals of beginning a new year, and intend to hit the ground running. Further still, after a few months of summer school and work around the house, going back to work will offer a much welcome slower pace!
- The Harvest Festival. Saturday, September 6. I’m not a very crafty guy, but I love going to this whenever I can so I can try all the food samples! After a few hours, I’ve had enough quality dip, cheese, cocoa, Chinese food, soup, stew, and other goodies to keep me full for another year. The entertainment is corny, but always fun, and I do sometimes buy things: I got a CD of medieval Celtic music once. Actually, some of the crafts are also worthwhile: I always make a point of admiring the statues of crystal dragons, and sentimental landscape paintings, and of getting a whiff of all the different scented candles. Time well spent.
- Football. I’m not a huge sports fan, but I’ve found myself getting more into it the last several years. I might even try some fantasy football this year. Football is always a fun way to relax and enjoy a few hours, though I rarely get to watch an entire game. I also try to take the family to some of my school’s games each Fall, which is an irrepressibly wholesome bit of Americana.
- New baby. My fifth child and third son, Aiden John, is due on September 23. I spent a lot of my “honey-do” time this summer getting things ready, and we’re all excited about the new addition to the clan. A baby’s first year goes by so quickly, because it’s so eventful, and I want to savor each moment. Honestly, I don’t know how people can only have one child, because these magic hours become such a blur. Not to mention, nothing makes you realize how settled into a rut your life had become than an infant. It’s life’s most rewarding challenge.
- General Conference. Saturday, October 4-Sunday, October 5. I love Conference; I recently wrote a blurb about about literacy among the Latter-day Saints that made a big deal out of this. Nearly every one of these assemblies for lecturing challenges me, inspires me, and gives me plenty to talk about and work on. I enjoy the speaking styles of various people, and Conference almost always offers a few stories that stick with me. I try to take copious notes on it, and refer to them often. We Mormons really do have a treasure trove of powerful and useful oratory in our midst, one that we should do more to appreciate. Hearing the Tabernacle Choir and a few other select performing groups doesn’t hurt, either.
- Boulder City Art in the Park. Saturday, October 4. I’ll try to visit this for a few hours before General Conference, but it might cut into the first session. Well, that’s what the archives on the Church web site are for. I’ve only been to this for the last two years, but I wonder now at how much pleasure my life missed out on before it. First of all, Boulder City is a beautiful place. It has a cozy, inviting, back East small town feel to its shops and sidewalks, the kind of atmosphere you also see in Northern Nevada and Utah…basically, everywhere but Vegas. *sigh* But the art displays themselves are even better than those at the Harvest Festival, having far more variety in their wares. The weather is pleasant, the homemade tacos are delightful, and there’s just no better way to spend a Saturday morning than strolling around a leafy park with your family as you browse the cornucopia of paintings, sculptures, and some other forms of artwork. It’s always interesting to see a tent with, say, pastel portraits of Jesus set up next to another tent featuring 3-D murals of electric, lighted neon figures of unicorns and elves.
- 9th Annual Something Scottish. Saturday, October 4…which is shaping up to be a pretty busy day. Luckily this production is relatively small, and I should be able to squeeze it in during the hours between Conference sessions. This annual ritual features bagpipe players, step dancers, Celtic genealogy tables…and haggis. Seriously. I once tried calling most of the butchers in Vegas to get some haggis; half of them didn’t know what it was, and the other half laughed and said that it would be impossible to get. *sigh* The little kids can pick up crayons to color a picture of Nessie, while I munch away at some bangers and mash.
- Cooler Weather, Shorter Days. No specific day here, but after the hectic pace set by the long days of summer, it’s a refreshing treat to put on a sweater in the morning, or have to cut some work short because the light is gone. This time of year encourages us to spend more time lounging around in the back yard, or enjoying the kind of vigorous outdoor activities that you just can’t do during the five months of the year when it’s 115 degrees in the shade here. October and November really are the best months of the year to live in Vegas…though I still wish I lived somewhere where the leaves actually changed color.
- Renaissance Festival. Friday, October 10-Saturday, October 12. I’ll refrain form the ale, but nothing will keep me from lending an ear to the strolling minstrels here, or from examining the many sword blades available for perusal and purchase. A genuine joust is a must see, and every other booth sells scones. The costumes are worth the price of admission alone–it’s just not every day you can see some corseted wench tending to the cape and boots of her lord fair. Unless, I suppose, you live in California. *cough, cough*
- Halloween. Possibly October 31st. Nevada was actually admitted to the Union on October 31st, so we get this as a holiday. Though it’s usually moved to be a three day weekend, this year it’s on a Friday, which means I get Halloween off work! In the weeks leading up to it, I’ll spend hours going up and down the aisles of everyplace from party stores to costume stores to Hallmark soaking up all the silly schmaltz. I also try to read a classic scary novel each October. My street is only a few years old, and only has one outlet, so traffic is low, but I’ll still carve a jack-o-lantern (I like to think I’m pretty good at it), and gussy up the kids to go out and collect some sugar. My church also does a “trunk or treat” the weekend before, and that’s always a hoot, too.
- My Birthday. Sunday, November 2. Of course I’ve long since passed the point where anyone makes much of a fuss about this, but I still enjoy it. It’s a great excuse to indulge yourself for a day–I’ll take the family out to dinner wherever I want–and maybe even get a nice surprise or two. Also, I have this delusion that life will get easier as I get older, so I’m looking forward to middle age soon. Knock on wood.
- Election Day. Tuesday, November 4. I take this seriously. I even did all the research I could and voted in last week’s primary election. In November, I’ll do more research and, as per tradition, take my kids with me to see me vote. The workers are always happy to give the little ones pencils and “I Voted” stickers. I’ll wear my sticker to work the next day. It certainly makes an evening of watching the news more exciting.
- Thanksgiving. Thursday, November 27. I likewise take this seriously, seeing it as a religious holiday to offer gratitude to God for specific blessings (as, incidentally, Washington and Lincoln also saw it). Accordingly, my family and I will discuss things for which we’re thankful. However, there are plenty of other things to enjoy about it, especially…the Macy’s parade. I love this parade. I watch it every year. Not every float is great, and not every performance is worthwhile, but enough of them are that I make this a priority. The kids sure do get a kick out of seeing Santa at the end.
Of course, much of this plan depends on new baby Aiden. We might not be able to go out and do all of this with him, but we’ll do what we can. If nothing else, I know it’ll be easy to love getting the fireplace going for the first time this season as our new baby sits on the rug, and I’ll read Dracula as I listen in on a football game and sip some of the flavored hot chocolate I just got from the Harvest Festival.