My first season in Boston just passed by leaving me with a satisfied post-orgasm smile on my face, incredulous that I actually spent four months wearing shorts and sandals everyday, living in a constant over-30 Celsius degree temperature, with crying-armpits wetting my shirt and sleepless nights lying naked, spread-eagle in bed. The pleasure I was immersed in those days will not be enough to get me through the cold season and it’s time that I ready myself for the traumatic separation from the the endless summer; the signs are all there and they’re crystal clear even to those who just crossed the Pond: all-size pumpkins being sold at the local supermarket, Halloween-themed decorations timidly making their debut in stores and on porches in the neighborhood; and my jeans, long forgotten in the closet, are now clamoring for attention. That means only one thing: the season is changing and I find myself experiencing again all those emotions that I had forgotten after 8 years in a country like England, where sometimes all the four seasons randomly show up within the same week or day. That is, feeling gloomy while summer fades into autumn, yet welcoming the new season with impatience, especially when you put your hands on your favourite jumper which still fits! After all, September has always represented the beginning of a new cycle, even more than January: in September a new academic year starts, a new fiscal year kicks off and in September all my favourite TV series premiere a new season. While in Italy and England TV contributed to mark the switch with commercials of school stationery starting mid-July, advertisements of the Christmas panettone in Italy and the mawkish holiday season wishes from John Lewis in England starting in early-October, on this side of the Atlantic I don’t watch TV (over 500 channels destabilise me), so I watch people instead, I observe how Bostonians get ready and what marks the change of the season in Boston.
Mass migration. A few days ago my flatmate Jeremy (or roommate if you’re stripes and stars, although we don’t share the same room so I don’t see why I should call him that!) involved me in another American rite of season transition: we took the AC units down from the windows. I would have never said that those metal boxes, dangerously challenging the gravitational laws hanging out from the windowsills and making it impossible to bring oneself to the windows (I couldn’t believe it the first time I saw one when I first visited the country 15 years ago, while the guy showing me my room couldn’t believe that I didn’t have one in Italy) stay there for only one season before being sacked and migrated to the basement, making the message even clearer: Winter Is Coming. Not so fast though, there’s Halloween first!
Let it carve. I recall that it all started on August 22nd, when I was at Stop and Shop’s for my weekly grocery shopping and while in the candy aisle (I was just passing through to reach the organic produce…), among the family pack of mixed candy bars and that of chocolate stuffed with peanut butter and covered with coconut powder, cinnamon and smarties, I spotted the Halloween kit: a pumpkin bucket already filled with goodies and which could be also used for trick-or-treating. Over here they don’t mess around with Halloween and people start getting ready with time, like the guy of the panettone commercial who used to start bugging Italians 60 days before Christmas. Halloween seems to be the most craved holiday, while people count the days to Thanksgiving, which occurs at the end of November, before rushing to Christmas. These three holidays somehow affect the normal time continuum and one jumps from October to January without even having time to finish the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie made with the leftover pumpkins from All Hallows’ Eve.
Pumpkins everywhere. The orange vegetable, in Italy known because of the movies rather than culinary reasons, represents here what roasted chestnuts (caldarroste in Italian) represent in my hometown. One day in September you’re taking a stroll through the narrow roads of Rome’s city centre and the smell of roasted chestnuts hits your nostrils on the corner with Piazza di Spagna and Via Condotti: it’s autumn and there’s no doubt about it now. While I’m writing this, I’m on a lake in Maine, it’s October 3rd and it’s been a few weeks already since huge pumpkins of all sizes have been laying on the supermarkets’ shelves or have been popping up on windowsills and in the front yards as though they grow there naturally when this period of the year comes, often paired with little dummies that resemble Dorothy’s Scarecrow, dressed up for the occasion with the colours of autumn.
How many shades are there between yellow and brown? It only takes a walk in New England when October is at its best to realise that there’s no limit to Nature’s chromatic imagination in this part of the country. That’s what New England’s falls are famous for and in a green city like Boston, with big woods at a stone’s throw, colours join the air that gets colder to breath; pumpkins that turn into lanterns; and air conditioning units sent to winter in the basement to remind us that, like the seasons leaving place to the one taking over, “change is the only constant” and instead of fearing it, we should embrace it and seize the moment before the moment seizes us.