Monday, November 13, 2006

saturdays in autumn

autumn always seems to have a certain aura about the season. it's something about the air: the crisp morning chill, the whisper of winter wind, the long early evening sun. and there's the change in atmosphere, bridging the void from the last bright months of august and september to the twilight eves of december and january.

for me, autumn always brings certain memories. especially the weekends. and especially saturdays.

autumn saturdays meant several things to my childhood: involvement in kid sports leagues, a chance to catch up on errands, an opportunity to do chores, and a ritual of watching college football. not always in that particular order, since different activities would be allotted different priorities at different times. but the piece-de-resistance, the highlight of the day, would always be college football.

my grandmother loved college football. loved it. she sometimes pretended not to. but she did. she confided to me that when my grandfather was alive they'd made a deal to sacrifice something for each other--he'd go to operas and symphonies with her, if she would go to college football games with him. thing is, she never told him she loved college football. so all those years he thought he'd been getting a great deal, never knowing that she relished the best of both sides of the bargain.

after my grandfather died, and her saturday chores had lightened to the load connected with a single person, i'd spend the autumn saturdays with her, and we'd watch every college football game on television. she had a particular fondness for midwestern teams (Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa), since that was where she'd spent so much of her youth. but she also had a taste for rivalries, with the big ones being Notre Dame v. USC, Texas v. Texas A&M, Penn v. Ohio State, Minnesota v. Wisconsin, and UW v. Washington State.

funny thing was, it wasn't always about the football.

a lot of it was about things that had absolutely nothing to do with football, or college, or saturdays in autumn. a lot of the time, we actually spent talking. about things in life. about politics, art, culture, traveling, family gossip, paying bills, taking care of pets, fixing houses and cars, classes in school, going to church, babysitting, attending marriages and funerals, planning holiday meals, sharing memories and wishes. we'd cheer, we'd talk, we'd laugh, we'd cry. and then we'd check the score...and if we didn't like it, we'd change the channel.

those saturdays meant a lot to me. they marked a regular, devoted, exclusive, committed, and virtually sacrosanct time in which i and my grandmother were able to connect and communicate and share our lives with each other--in ways in which so many families have forgotten or given up or abandoned. ways which carry a significance reaching far beyond a single day, and that seem to make the biggest difference when things seem to matter most.

i never understood it then, when i was a child. i realized it only after i moved out and started living on my own. but i consider it fortunate that i managed to know their meaning early enough that i could cherish the autumn saturdays with my grandmother before she died. they marked a time when i was able to talk to someone the way we all should count ourselves so lucky to talk to just once in our lives--openly, freely, without expectation or judgement, limitation or lies, just talking about all the things mundane and sacred that we experience with the deepening of the shadows and the passing of the seasons.

my autumn saturdays now aren't so much about college football.

i have no one to share them with.

instead, now, my autumn saturdays are taken by pursuits of my own choosing. often, the mornings--and sometimes entire days--are spent on a bike out on a lonely road, focused on purposes with arcane labels like aerobic conditioning, anaerobic threshold, muscular endurance, and recovery ride. lately, the hours have been spent in cross-training, experimenting with tai chi and bagua training in a park. occasionally, they'll be devoted to solo swims battling chilling currents in ocean surf. sometimes, i'll even schedule a solitary long-distance run on a secluded favorite trail.

and there's always the mundane tasks that should have been done during the week but which invariably get pushed back to the 2 days we afford ourselves to ourselves: the bills, the groceries, the errands, the car, the dusting, the cleaning, the chores of everyday living that reserve their eternal slots in our lives.

but sometimes, when i take a saturday off, i'll find myself in front of the television watching college football, and i'll think of my grandmother, and all the days we spent watching the games and talking about life and living and our place in it, and the many things that went so far beyond the trivial confines of a field marked by a gridiron and tabbed by a score.

and other times, when i'm out on an open road and i'm all alone and there's nothing around me save the crisp air of morning chill and the whispering winds of winter and the lengthening shadows of evening sun, when all i feel is the atmosphere and the aura and the age of the season, i'll find myself deep in memories, thinking of my grandmother, and all the days we spent watching the games, and remembering all the many meanings of all the saturdays in autumn.

it's then that i miss her.

No comments: