Wait, what does that term even mean? In California, a cooler sun, a hope of rain. More brown than green, more red than pink, no yellow in sight.
We use “autumnal” to talk about our lives, too, right? We can feel autumnal, even in the bright sun. Particularly as we age. Here’s what Shakespeare thought. I’ve always loved those first four lines.
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
But I’m not ready for ashes. Birds still sing, leaves in place albeit visibly veined.
This personal autumn most importantly means that my children, both of them, have reached adulthood. My son is 26, my daughter 29. And they have, in some ways, outgrown my life experience. At 26 I’d started an MBA at Columbia – making a choice that took me in revealing, difficult, and life-changing directions. At 29 I married my first husband, again, life-changing. My kids are taking different courses, all for the better, I think.
Now that I can’t give my kids advice directly from my life, I’m considering, what is my role when I’ve exhausted knowledge but feel sure of wisdom?
The nurturing part of motherhood is pretty easy. Cook breakfast burrito, but new lipstick, nothing but love. Clean sheets for a visit, money for a trip. Our authority, however, is more difficult, and suffers more shifts. My mother had to abdicate so early. The societal rupture of the 1960s, and its impact on women, meant that by the time I turned 14 I was already on a completely different path than hers. By 16 I understood our separation, by 25 I’d resigned myself to a life without maternal oversight.
I now find myself reluctant to give up my old place as leader. I imagine a hike, through the seasonal forest. But mothers and children move from monarchy to democracy. Nature doesn’t guide us.
We just keep doing the best we can.
The other day I was visiting my mother. She looked at me, in one of her moments of remembered behaviors, and asked, “What are you doing these days?” I told her I was worrying about my children. She looked down, and then up, and asked, “Are your children worried about themselves?” “Ah,” I thought. “I never worried about my children, unless they were worried. Because of the kind of people they were,” she said.
Maybe I did have a guide. Or maybe I am my own, from here.
Have a wonderful weekend.