It’s difficult to determine what came first: my family’s collective depression in the fall or the concept that my family, as a unit, has seasonal affective disorder. We may have had enough conversations about hating Autumn that it has just become our truth. Analyzing where this feeling comes from is irrelevant because it is a fact that our hearts sink, faces get itchy, noses get runny, and the ennui becomes suffocating every year on October 1. Things don’t get better until May 1, when color returns to our cheeks, and we can breathe comfortably, again.
If we lived in the North East, you might be more sympathetic. We, however, live in Southern California, but don’t think fall hurts us any less than someone who has to turn their heater on in the fall. Despite the nearly imperceptible shift in temperature, we still experience a change in the atmosphere once October comes. We won’t even have to look at the calendar, and we know that fall has officially begun. We feel it in our souls that somewhere, far away, there’s a city where leaves are about to die, and people are about to pull on their brown corduroy everything. Locally, scarecrows, hay, and pumpkins will sprout up around the city and people will start reaching for their pumpkin spiced drinks in ninety-degree weather; this is enough to make us want to pull on our sweats and go to bed for six months. Pretty soon, we know we’ll be driving home in the dark, eating dinner in the dark, and crying in the dark.
My mom, who I believe we inherited our seasonal affective disorder from, insists that we need to embrace the season; That we should pull on our winter coats, go to haunted houses, and then go Halloween caroling through the neighborhood. She says these words with her mouth, but I know she’s fighting off the depression herself.
Darla and Jude do not currently suffer from Seasonal Depression. As my mom would want them to, they embrace the season. They even try to sneak in Halloween activities in September, but I have a strict rule that nothing Halloween can happen before October. The majority of the month is still summer; I would like to keep the month sacred and untainted by orange and brown hues. It’s everything sunshine, brightness, and pastels until midnight on September 30th.
Since I don’t want them to be burdened by the crushing sadness every fall, I hide my hatred of the season. I pretend I love autumn and that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. (I can’t even say that was true when I was a kid. I remember enjoying the cake walk at my school Halloween carnival, but a haze of sadness clouds every other memory).
This year, the decorations went up on the first day of October. I hid my disgust with the activity and held back my tears as I spread out the cotton spider webs on the bushes outside our house.
“Oh my gosh, I love this,” I kept saying over and over hoping to convince myself that I did as little bits of cotton got stuck in my mouth.
And, despite the knowledge that I knew we were just on the cusp of my two least favorite seasons, I eventually did start to enjoy myself. Not because I decided our decorations looked cool or that I had a big epiphany about why Halloween was super fun, but because my kids were having such a good time. They shouted to every person who passed in front of our house and told them to look at our decorations. Darla picked up a fake bone and a phony pumpkin and walked down the street singing the Halloween Carole, “Happy Halloween Time, Happy Halloween Time, Happy Halloween Time” as she hit the pumpkin like a drum. It was in those moments that Darla and Jude's enthusiasm overshadowed my hatred of fall; I was grateful that I get to hang out with these little Halloween enthusiasts who make Autumn just a tiny bit more tolerable. Behind the scenes, I’m still weeping and counting the days until spring, but I can at least siphon off a bit of their joy for myself to make it a bit better.