Like many of you, I wasn’t sure fall was ever going to get here.
Don’t get me wrong, I like summertime and a lot of the trappings that come with it — the beach, baseball, grilling out, the big movies, etc. But after a while, the absolutely unrelenting heat of the pressure cooker that is a Southern summer begins to wear on you. You can only take so many days where you walk out your front door and feel like you’ve just stepped into a sauna at the YMCA before you begin longing for a cool down.
But it was slow in coming this year, wasn’t it? And, to be clear, you weren’t just imagining that the earliest parts of fall were abnormally warm: According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last month was tied for the hottest September, globally, in history, having only been matched by September 2015. The early part of October wasn’t a lot better. We live down in the Columbia area and had several days in recent weeks where the temperature was in the mid-to-upper 90s. That’s just gross.
But the switch finally flipped last week, and at last fall — blessed fall — arrived. There were several days where high temperatures were in the 60s or 70s, and nights where the lows fell into the 40s. That sound you heard was the entire South breathing a sigh of relief.
While the crisp air of fall is welcome in the sense that it finally ushered the blast-furnace days of summer out the door, it’s also appreciated because of all the things it represents. The memories it conjures and all the little traditions it portends.
Fall, of course, is many things.
It’s the sights, sounds and smells of the South Carolina State Fair, which wraps up today. We took my daughter to the fair last week, and I’ll admit I find just as much magic in it today as I did when my parents used to take me when I was a kid. I particularly love it when the sun goes down and the vibrant, flashing lights of the midway pop against the night sky, all of that color swirling in the shadow of Williams-Brice Stadium. It’s the aroma of corn dogs and elephant ears hanging in the air, and being enveloped in a crescendo of the high-pitched screams of the young (and not-so-young) as they are hurtled through time and space on various roller coasters, swings and other spinning, whirling carnival rides. I’ll have you know that I rode the Crazy Mouse, Niagara Falls and the Bullet Train (twice) and managed not to lose my lunch, so I considered that a win. Many thanks to the makers of Less Drowsy Dramamine.
Fall is the orange glow of a pumpkin flickering from a front porch, and drug store witches and ghosts and ghouls hanging in the trees out on the lawn, and some of those cheap, synthetic spider webs (that never end up looking like real spider webs) spread over the hedges. Indeed, Halloween — remember kids, it’s always on Oct. 31 — approaches. It remains my very favorite holiday, one filled with costume shops and fun-size Snickers bars and late-night “Friday the 13th” marathons on cable. The season also brings with it the annual showings of 1966’s “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” ABC will air it at 8 Tuesday night and at 7 next Sunday night, if you want to get “in your feelings,” as the kids say.
And fall, specifically when it finally gets cool, is when football season actually becomes football season. We remain crazy — nearly pathological — about football in the South, but something’s not quite right about it when those early games are being played in a climate that feels like a rain forest somewhere along the Amazon River basin. But when the temperature drops and you have to pull a jacket out of the closet before heading out to the game on Friday night or Saturday afternoon, you know the season is getting serious. I’d swear there’s just something about the fall air that makes the marching band sound a little better and makes the popcorn just a bit tastier and makes the lights illuminating a small-town field shine that much brighter.
There’s simply no better time of year.