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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The sights, smells and sounds of October

As a kid I was only aware of a few specific months during the course of the year.  Most months were indistinct and ran together before the senses of the oblivious child that would one day become 'trep'.  But October's assault ensured that I would take note... and I did.

One of the few regrets I have about moving to Israel is that my kids will not grow up with these same fall associations. They won't associate October with the changing leaves.  Oh sure, we have deciduous trees here... but there isn't the same dazzling riot of color each fall the way I remember from autumn days spent in New York and New England.

They will also miss out on the smells. 

Back when it was still legal to burn leaves in most places, October meant countless piles of leaves in every neighborhood  We would jump in them, making extra work for our parents with our leaf fights and making our jackets musty with the smell of mouldering leaves.  But each pile would eventually be re-raked and set afire, filling the neighborhood with an indescribable smell of comfort and homeyness.

The other smells of October could be found only in the neighborhood drug store. 

Grown-ups tend to think of the supermarket as the source for Halloween candy.  But they've forgotten that once upon a time, candy didn't come in jumbo bags of mini-Snickers and mini-Kit Kats.  It was found in fragrant displays at the neighborhood drug store, amid paper witches, and overflowing from plastic pumpkins. 

At the start of October the wax fangs and lips would appear just inside the entrance to the drug store... along with the bags of candy corn.  Unlike orange mellowcremes, many of the treats were probably available all year 'round, but for some reason I only remember buying wax bottles filled with colored sugar-water in October. 

The radio also sounded different in October. 

Just as summer radio has its own peculiar 'sound', a person waking from a coma in October would immediately know what month is was.  He'd know from the local football games being announced or recounted... a few days in a row of warm weather inevitably being dubbed 'Indian Summer'... and all the unctuous top-40 DJs welcoming their listeners to 'Rocktober' (do they still do that?). 

The culmination of this memorable month (and the official kick-off of Thanksgiving season) was, of course, Halloween. 

While my kids have always done their costume and candy binging in the spring (Purim), there has always been a bit of excitement in our house about being able to answer the door on Halloween and hand out candy to the neighborhood ghosts and goblins.


Maybe it's best that we're no longer there or I'd probably become one of those father's who tortures his children with stories of "...when I was a kid".

Instead I torture my readers. 


Posted by David Bogner on October 11, 2005 | Permalink


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Halloween is nothing like I remember, and I DO still live here. The doorbell will start ringing at 5:30 with the little ones escorted by parents, many who clog the streets by following along in their cars, sometimes trucking in a car full of kids from other neighborhoods.

By 8:00 the older teens take over, as old as 17. Without wearing costumes, without saying "Trick or Treat" nor even "Hello," they ring the bell and impatiently pound on the door and simply hold out their pillowcases for free candy.

It's not fun anymore. You're not missing much at all.

Posted by: Ocean Guy | Oct 11, 2005 1:56:43 PM

I second Ocean Guy...you are far better off in Israel!

Posted by: Essie | Oct 11, 2005 2:34:19 PM

October is, by far, my most favorite month of the year. Autumn is my favorite season. Oh, how I miss it. In spite of what the locals think, there really is no autumn here to speak of.

I have vivid memories of so much of what you mentioned above: leaf piles, the smell in the air, the nip of the first chill, apple cider, Halloween and oh, how I love orange mellowcremes!! I saw them in the drugstore yesterday and wanted them so badly. (They blow candy corn away anyday!) But I resisted because I knew I would eat the entire bag in one sitting and I am trying hard to maintain the weight I am at (same as in high school -- woohoo!)

If I can get cheap tickets I am headed back to Ohio sometime this month. October is just not the same in Texas.

Posted by: Stacey | Oct 11, 2005 3:36:06 PM

I love the Fall in Los Angeles, it is beautiful. Right now it is like a balmy 73 and there is a good chance it will hit the 80s.

The perfect temperature for so many activities.

Posted by: Jack | Oct 11, 2005 4:10:20 PM

"Fall in Los Angeles." What a joke. As if.

Posted by: Stacey | Oct 11, 2005 4:43:53 PM

Right now it is like a balmy 73 and there is a good chance it will hit the 80s.

Jack, that's my kind of fall. Not like here on the east coast, 50-60 degrees!

Posted by: Essie | Oct 11, 2005 7:31:00 PM


That is why I live out here, well one of the many reasons.

Posted by: Jack | Oct 11, 2005 7:38:31 PM

Oh my gosh, you're psychic! Only recently I myself wrote about how much I love this time of the year (minus moving to Israel part, because, well, I'm still here)...

Honestly, sometimes I feel like there's more to it than just changing leaves... Like some kind of magic that comes with autumn...

Posted by: Irina | Oct 11, 2005 9:32:30 PM

Our peter pan syndrome is our constant temptation to drive through those curbside leaf piles. But we always resist out of fear that there might be a child or two hiding among them. We are very fortunate to live in an area that not only do we have four seasons, but each season is equal in time, and pretty much consistent with it's temperatures. I remember when I was at Hebrew U., my girlfriend's mom sent her a gift in the mail. She cried when she opened it. She was from Boston, and it was filled with beautiful fall leaves.

And I am totally with you with Halloween. I love Halloween, especially decorating the yard. I have yet to do it, since up to now, we haven't had that many children in the neighborhood, but that has all change. My husband is totally mortified by the idea that I will go all out...but I love the idea of creating a really spooky house. Ocean Guy...our one rule is that we only give out candy to kids under 12. Most of the time, they kids are disappointed, but they understand.

Posted by: Jaime | Oct 11, 2005 11:35:13 PM

Ocean Guy... You must live in a nice neighborhood if they are busing the kids in from other districts! :-)

Essie... I never doubted that for a minute... but nostalgia is nostalgia.

Stacey... Oh thanks for reminding me. The farm near where we lived in Connecticut had hay rides and apple cider this time of year. sigh.

Jack... You have even less change of seasons than I do! :-)

Irina... No doubt there is something about the air in autumn (at least where you live).

Jaime... My favorite houses to visit when I was of an age to still go trick or treating were the ones that went all out. Recordings of chains rattling... groans of ghosts... stuffed witches in ricking chairs... ghosts hanging from the clothes line... in short, go for it!

Posted by: David | Oct 11, 2005 11:47:52 PM

Oh we love going to the farms...and lucky for us, there are still plenty around. Apple and pumpkin picking, hay rides, the smell of fireplaces, yes, this really is one of the greatest times of the year.

Posted by: Jaime | Oct 12, 2005 12:03:10 AM

Oh, wow, David, you captured October beautifully. Thank you.

One other olfactory memory: the scent of wood-burning stoves as one took an autumn walk.

(And oh, yes, I remember apple-picking on the farm and the hot apple cider. Oh, yes.)

Posted by: Rahel | Oct 12, 2005 12:40:55 AM

It's true - we have no seasons here in L.A. And no real Halloween, either. Our community frowns on that sort of thing - our kids know they don't "do" Halloween, and that they get Purim. But we don't get any trick-or-treaters either. We usually turn off the lights in the front of the house and retreat to the back, since the trick-or-treaters we used to get were a little too old, and a lot too scary, to be going door-to-door for candy.

Posted by: Ralphie | Oct 12, 2005 1:15:01 AM


We have plenty of seasons. There is hot followed by hotter followed by hot followed by hotter again with brief intermissions of rain.

Posted by: Jack | Oct 12, 2005 5:09:07 AM

And what sweet torture it is....I am pretty sure we could find some poople in the states who would be more than happy to send you their bags of raked leaves....

I am with you on the Halloween things, but though I am full-on Orthodox, my biggest pleasure involving other religion's holidays is being secretly fond of X-mas music....

Posted by: mcaryeh | Oct 12, 2005 8:53:10 AM

being an October birthday girl, we always had bobbing for apples as one of the activities at my birthday party. I remember that so clearly. And the party was always outside, in upstate NY, regardless of Indian summer or early frost, we just dressed accordingly! I miss the colors. Norwegian foliage does it's thing in a week's time and then all the leaves just fall off in preparation for the long winter...fall here is talked about as depressing and grey, but there's nothing like a vibrant blue sky seen through every shade of orange, red, yellow, purple, rust(aha!! You must admit that you can't just label fall colors with your basic color scheme of a few days back...wouldn't do it justice!) while lying on one's back under the trees in a pile of maple leaves... North East autumn is the thing I tell people I miss the most after family and friends.

Posted by: nrg | Oct 12, 2005 9:05:00 AM

I recently went through this same feeling of homesickness for the change of seasons. I don't think I'll ever recover completely from this, but I have stopped feeling bad for my children for missing it, as I see them picking up the (much more, in my opinion) subtle signals of season change here in Israel. The appearance of the "nachlieli" bird is one example, much sung about in gan - I have no idea which bird this actually is as a 3 or 4 year old is not the most reliable bird id-er. Also certain flowers coming, or a certain fruit coming back in season. Yeah, but I still miss fall.

Posted by: Olah Ima | Oct 12, 2005 12:47:14 PM

Mcaryeh...I have a confession to make. When I lived in Jerusalem, I used to tuned in to Radio Jordan so I could listen to the Christmas Music. I have never been comfortable with the Jesus/Manger songs, but the seasonal ones are like comfort food during the cold and wet months of Winter.

Posted by: js | Oct 12, 2005 3:19:01 PM

David, you haven't been here long enough to get into the swing of the seasons in Israel. When Fall is finally announced by the arrival of the Nachlieli (small bird with long legs, wearing a tux that bobs up and down like one of those dashboard toys-Olah Ima, that was for you) and the appearance of the Chatzav flowers, you start to anticipate the arrival of the first rain and the welcome scent of moist, cool air! Take the family up to the Hula Valley to watch the migrating flocks of birds, another part of Fall in Israel.

But I hear you. I still miss Minnesota's "Theater of Seasons." But frankly, I'd rather reminisce about -20F than be in it.

Posted by: jennifer | Oct 14, 2005 10:33:52 AM

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