It’s finally fall, y’all! And I can throw in that last word without a hint of irony because I grew up in sweltering south Texas, where both “y’all” and wearing shorts in December are a given. But I’ve spent the majority of my adult life in central Ohio, and nothing makes this San Antonio girl giddier than the prospect of pulling out that big bundle of sweaters that have been languishing in the closet all summer (or, let’s be honest–the seasons here are too variable to ever actually rotate the closet completely).
As a child I liked to pore over my mom’s stash of Victoria magazines and Lands End catalogs, pretending that one day I too might live in a place verdant and crisp enough to require a chunky knit or smart waxed jacket (I’ve always been a bit of a prep). What’s more, with an August birthday, my celebratory back-to-school shopping trips always ended in silent yearning for the fuzzy sweaters and corduroy pants that inexplicably turned up in local stores at the “end” of summer, despite its assured reign through at least November 1.
Happily, I yearn no more. My closet is filled to the brim with sweaters, jackets, coats and boots. Because, Ohio. And I love it! Maybe not the 90 Days of Gray that tends to follow fall, but in my book, it still beats perspiring your way through Thanksgiving. Sweaters and outerwear aside, here are some of the other reasons why fall in central Ohio is the best, from an outsider’s perspective.
Sure, we aren’t New England or even West Virginia when it comes to fall foliage, but gosh dangit, the fact that we have real honest-to-goodness TREES in central Ohio, most of which turn delicious shades of crimson, gold, persimmon and burgundy as the season progresses…well, it’s just awesome. Of course, if you grew up with it, it’s normal and pretty and, yeah, that’s what happens at this time of year, Erin. Duh. But where I’m from, the leaves really don’t change. We have cedar, which makes the populace miserable for months on end when it blooms. We have Texas live oaks, which mostly stay a leafy green year-round. We have prickly pear cactus.
My first autumn here in Columbus I remember hiking through High Banks Metro Park with my husband and in-laws and completely annoying them with my tendency to just stop and gawk at the tall, beautifully golden and red trees surrounding us. And I’m pretty sure that now, as a mom, my reverence for the seasonal colors has only increased. I love pointing out gorgeously aflame trees to my kids as we walk or drive, and love it even more when they point out the trees they have spotted. (Check out this list of fall foliage for some great spots around Columbus.)
Real Pumpkin Patches
I don’t recall ever visiting a pumpkin patch as a kid. I don’t know if it’s because they didn’t exist back then or because the idea of traipsing around a field in the 90-degree heat was not my parents’ idea of a nice day out, but our Halloween pumpkins always came from the grocery store. Inside the grocery store. And only purchased a few days before Halloween, because otherwise, they would rot in the sun. Facebook tells me that these days, my Texas friends and family are taking their kids–sweat and all–to “pumpkin patches.” But these are primarily churches or fields where pumpkins are collected and heaped into piles for photos. Here in central Ohio, we are lucky enough to have many, many pumpkin patches where you can actually go out in the field and cut your own pumpkins right off the vine. How cool is that?! Again, duh, yes, I know–it’s normal. But only if you grew up here. So on your next trip to the pumpkin patch, think of all those poor little Sunbelt kids buying their pumpkins at H-E-B.
Halloween Costumes Sans Sweat
Of course, we can all recall some recent beggars nights that felt sub-zero or were sodden with rain. But for the most part, Halloween in central Ohio is a delightfully crisp departure from the sweaty trick-or-treat evenings of my youth. As a kid, my mom had to ensure that our costumes were light and airy enough to prevent heat stroke during our neighborhood candy grabbing romps. Black-garbed ghouls and masked stormtroopers were sure to come home pouring sweat. So in my book, having to throw on some tights and a turtleneck under your princess dress is well worth it.
The Bittersweet Certainty that WINTER IS COMING
Sure, most of us (even the cradle-to-grave Ohioans) hate winter or at least like to complain about it. But isn’t its very looming what makes autumn so achingly kind? These are the good times–the last few sleep-with-the-windows open, face-to-the-sun, jump-in-the-leaves days left before the cold blanket of gray makes its unyielding descent. It’s kind of the way south Texans feel about, oh I don’t know, March? That last brief period before the sun decides to come back out and kick everyone’s butts again for the foreseeable future.
Has there been some hyperbole in this piece? Most definitely. My childhood home is neither as brutally hot (well, not all the time) nor arid as I have implied. However, the stark contrast between “fall” in the two places is definitely real. So if you’re lucky enough to be enjoying a central Ohio autumn, just stop for a minute and appreciate the fact that you live in a place that allows you to wear a sweater in October, drink a hot beverage outside without sweating, and go without a/c for a few months. That’s what I’m doing.