Fall has officially come to South Texas. I know that not because any leaves are changing color, but because we’re having those 30 degree daily temperature swings that are so typical of this time of year. Mornings are quite seasonable in the 50s or 60s, and if you’re out and about early, the piles of pumpkins and gourds that have suddenly appeared in the supermarkets and garden centers will cause you to forget the recent months of unrelenting drought and string of 100+ degree days. But then, by late afternoon with the thermometer edging up toward 90, you recall them all too vividly and hasten to go out and water those potted mums you just purchased. They are already drooping and you haven’t even gotten them into the ground yet!
But we try. My husband, bless him, really tries, because he knows this is my favorite season and he knows how much I miss New England in the fall. Usually, we would have made a trip up East to New York and Connecticut around this time to see friends and enjoy the foliage, but not this year. So he has gone out and bought pumpkins and mums and created planters (see above). A few years back, he even planted two beautiful red oak trees, which have now grown very large and do, indeed, turn color even here, albeit late in the season — very late, like in January. I have been threatening for years to spray paint all the trees in our yard orange and yellow, but have so far settled for bringing fall indoors with artificial swags of leaves from Michael’s and arrangements of faux fall baskets. This week I even started to introduce some Halloween decorations inside, because it is my favorite holiday and the ravens and witches make me happy.
I also know it’s fall because Columbus Day is on Monday and my birthday always comes around Columbus Day. For many years, at least in the Northeast, Columbus Day marked a big holiday weekend, a chance for dedicated “leaf peepers” like us to get away. We often traveled to upstate New York or out to eastern Connecticut to enjoy shopping in quaint little towns, staying in a quiet country inn, and photographing those spectacular landscapes. At this time of year, local newspapers and weather forecasters keep area residents updated with color-coded maps and fall foliage advisories for the best scenic driving routes. Even just a day trip was an invigorating autumn experience, especially if it fell on my birthday.
So, today is my birthday, but I obviously don’t have plans for a fall trip up East this year, or anywhere else anytime soon for that matter. 2020 has been a difficult year, memorable for lots of awful reasons, and hardly a year for celebrations of any kind, even birthdays. Yet, I decided to make this birthday memorable in a different way: first thing this morning, we drove up to New Braunfels to the county elections office to hand deliver our “mail-in” ballots. I figured that this is probably the most important election in my entire lifetime, so I could drive a bit to ensure that my vote counted. What better day to do that than on my birthday.
Even before all the news broke about post-office shenanigans, we were already experiencing repeated instances of lost/non-delivered/mis-delivered mail over the last few weeks, so the seeds of distrust in the reliability of the US Mail to properly deliver the ballots this year were already sprouting. (It so pains me to say that because I have always been such an avid user and advocate of the US Mail and always proclaimed ours the best mail delivery system in the world, at least until now.) Originally we intended to show up in person for early voting early next week, but we then discovered that Texas does not require masks of either voters or poll workers. (A subtle voter suppression tactic for those at risk during a pandemic.) So then we decided to use the mail-in ballots that had already come to us, to fill them out and personally drop them off. And then, after mail-in ballots had already been sent out, Gov. Abbott suddenly decreed there be only ONE mail-in drop-off location in every county, regardless of size or distance ( a not so subtle voter suppression tactic, pandemic or not). So, we drove up to the county seat this morning before early in-person voting begins; at least our location wasn’t a couple hundred miles away as it is in some places.
The effort today was my gift to myself, my satisfaction in exercising my responsibility and in being done with this election. And I am so done!! So tired of it!! So through with all the old incumbents on both sides of the aisle and the old ways of doing things: the gerrymandering, the lobbying, the big donors, the bullying and the good ole’ boys network. I noted, as I filled out my ballot at home, that out of the 21 races listed from president all the way down to county courts, women were contenders in 16 of those contests. The times they are a changin’ — and it’s high time! I hope, in some small ways over these last few months, I have contributed to some of those changes.
At the end of the day, my birthday did, in fact, end up to be a celebration, even if a somewhat restrained one. I had lots of cards and phone calls, a nice long Zoom visit with close friends far away, some extra special gifts, and a pizza party tonight with my “social triangle,” my husband, my son and my dog. It’s good; it’s all good, and I’m good to go, I think, for a few months more of all the craziness, the Covid, the restrictions, the isolation, the political fracas.
An autumn birthday in the autumn of my life reminds me of the strengths I have with which to persevere.