Late afternoon in Rome. The wind blows dried leaves into piles along the sidewalk; they crack and whisper against one another. The early October weather is warm and the afternoon sunlight baths Rome in King Midas’ kisses. I pass stores and restaurants opening after their post-lunch hours, ready to pull meandering customers in for a pre-dinner drink.
Without warning, I am overcome with a sense of longing for the autumn I remember back home. Maybe it’s the leaves–brittle and brown–or the sunlight that streams through the trees making playful shadows on the sidewalk and the windows of the parked cars. I ache for the bags stuffed with freshly picked apples and the taste of Dad’s baked pies, hot from the oven. I miss carved pumpkins on the steps of front porches and the crisp fall air that reddens cheeks and scatters the nicely raked leaves. I miss inventing fall drinks with fresh apple cider and the smell of pumpkin brownies with extra eggs and fudgy swirls. For the first time I can remember, I am homesick not for a person or a favorite food but for a season I will never see.
My friends and family are sending me reminders from back home. Hannah and Devin are sending baked good recipes with pumpkin spices. Billy mentions the changing leaves surrounding the Connecticut golf course. In my Inbox, Mom has listed her favorite fall memories:
sitting in lawn chairs with cold toes on the sidelines of high school soccer games…forcing a crying three-year old [me] to wear fairy wingsbecoming aware of the shortening days each Saturday afternoon on the ride back from Schenectadywaiting for the afternoon school bus among the fallen and crunchy leavesfamily eating orgies of apple cider and cider donutsBack-to-School nights
This year, my October is full of sunny days at the Roman Colosseum, sandy Santorini beaches and Athens’ rooftop bars. I will spend my remaining autumn days island hopping and exploring the coast of Turkey. By the time I return to the United States in November, bold winter weather will have pushed autumn back into the closet with the fall coats and leftover Halloween costumes. The seasons wait for no traveler.
From longing, I now feel comfort imagining the maple trees in western Massachusetts and upstate New York changing colors of red and yellow just as they did every year since my memory began. My current life is so devoid of routine and structure–as I struggle through yet another crowded city, airport, and ferry terminal–that the knowledge of another autumn season occurring back home provides me with a sense of order and peace. And when I struggle through another day of logistical planning or worry about my future after my return home, I remember that wherever I am and whatever I do, the seasons will come and go just as they always have. As predictable as the ocean waves that play on this Santorini shore.