Snow Fell Too Early in Upstate New York

Before the first frost iced the few remaining garden flowers, before the maple leaves could finish changing from green to red and orange, before Halloween was over with its smashed pumpkins and toilet paper tree décor, snow fell in upstate New York.  It was far too early and not exactly as predicted, since our local meteorologists forecast snow mainly in the higher elevations.  So now I feel a little more unsure about the next predicted storm tomorrow afternoon into Sunday, one of those coastal storms that occur usually after Thanksgiving and sometimes not even before Christmas.

The thing is, I really like the first snowfall of the year.  I like the way the snow weighs down the pine branches, forming a canopy over the roads.  I like when the sun shines on the powdery surfaces of the ground and sparkles the edges of the pines.

But I’m not ready.  I’m not ready to let go of autumn just as I was beginning to enjoy the falling leaves, the pumpkin patches, and the apple crop.  The stores seem to be ready, however, having displayed Christmas trees and ornaments during the last few weeks.  I don’t know why we rush the seasons.  I don’t know why we don’t get to immerse ourselves completely in each one before the next arrives.  I don’t like being unprepared.

Still, I’m not going to put my wreath on the front door or buy my Christmas cards yet.  I’m not going to be drawn in to the beautiful ornaments adorning the trees in Michaels or A.C. Moore or Macy’s or the malls.  I have yet to think about a turkey for Thanksgiving and I have no idea where my snow brush is or my scraper.  I would rather sit looking out my sliding glass doors at the squirrels racing around the garden and the woodpeckers searching for bugs in the dead pine trees.  I like watching the snow melt into the still-soft ground, uncovering the leaves waiting expectantly to be raked up into piles.  I long for autumn to linger a while.  I want it to rage against the onslaught of winter snow and icy mornings.  I want to hear the crunch of leaves under my feet and smell the first smoky fires from neighborhood chimneys.  I want to hold tightly on to the remaining October days before I am thrown headlong into the frenzy of the holidays.  I am not ready yet for winter in New York.

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Autumn Visit to California: A Lesson in Today’s Frantic Parenting

The week we just spent in California was different from a week at home in New York in ways too numerous to mention completely.   The weather was definitely better since it apparently rained in New York every day we were gone.  When we walked out of the Burbank airport, heat hit us immediately, the bright sun and pure blue sky replacing the grayness of New York.

I love the beauty of California, but I knew we would be returning to cool autumn mornings and the brilliant oranges and reds of falling leaves.  Still we managed to experience a bit of fall during our visit in California.

While we were there, my daughter and her husband threw a birthday party for their oldest daughter who had just turned six.   Sixty-two guests came to the event at a local farm where there were hay rides, pony rides, corn mazes, and an animal feeding area with goats and sheep and other farm animals.  There were games and bouncy houses and the never-to-be-forgotten cow train.  Late September and early October in California has a lot in common with New York.

What is very different is the pace, a pace that is a challenge for retired grandparents whose days are more leisurely.  My daughter’s schedule is frenetic.  She has to drive her oldest daughter to school every day and pick her up.  Her two-year-old has music class one morning, Gymboree one morning, and a mommy and me class two mornings.  Her six-year-old has dance class once a week, karate twice a week, gymnastics once a week, a religious education class once a week, and soccer every Saturday.  Every day is a mad dash somewhere.

While I was rushing around with my daughter, I tried to remember how I managed with my own two daughters when they were the same age.  I know they had swimming lessons, dance classes, piano lessons, religious education classes, gymnastics, t-ball, Indian Princesses, and Brownies.  I obviously ran around just as much.  What I remember now that time has passed is not the fatigue and frantic need to get somewhere on time but the way the activities helped my daughters develop physical strength, coordination, discipline, and confidence.  I think the sacrifices I made to get my daughters to all these activities helped them become successful, mature adults.  The goal of parenting for any generation seems to be to offer to our children as many opportunities for success and fun as we can cram into each day.  It’s a lofty goal.  It was probably more fun for me to watch my granddaughters at these activities than it was for my daughter who was most likely thinking of errands she still needed to run and what she could make for dinner.  Still, watching my oldest granddaughter play soccer and excel at karate and watching the little one play with Play-Doh and paint at an easel for the first time lifted my heart and also made me sad that these moments are all too rare.   California is just too far from New York for many visits.

Parenting today seems so much more stressful than when my daughters were young.  I had my parents, grandparents, and sister nearby to help when I needed it.  My daughter has no family nearby.  She and her husband are on their own, and every day is exhausting for them.  Maybe grandparents become even more special when they are seldom seen, at least that is what I am telling myself.  I can still feel my youngest granddaughter hugging my arm as I sat next to her in the car and coming up behind me in the kitchen, wrapping her arms around my leg, and resting her head on me.  I can remember the way it felt to lie next to my oldest granddaughter and read to her every night, giving her a hug and kiss before bedtime.  I remember how she ran into the house the day we left and threw herself on her bed crying hysterically because we had to leave.

There may be miles and miles between California and New York, but there is very little distance between my heart and the hearts of my granddaughters.  Our visits may be far apart, but love knows no distance.  I love autumn in New York, but I was so grateful for the chance to experience the same season in California, even if there wasn’t an orange or red leaf anywhere to be seen.  And the best part of all was experiencing a California autumn with my grandchildren by my side.