playinginleafpileBig yellow school buses are rumbling down my street picking up excited little kids and sullen high schoolers. Summer’s over. No more dock time. Life’s fall schedule has commenced. Mom’s doing a happy dance and sipping another cup of coffee as she sees the bus filled with kid passengers roll down the street.

Crimson and golden leaves are falling with abandon; the green lawn is a fall patchwork quilt. My fireplace is stacked with wood to burn. I’m checking out hot dish recipes to warm our chilled bodies at this evening’s supper. The mesmerizing scent of burning leaves fills the air. I’m reminded of bonfires at Homecoming time back in high school. Cinnamon candles flicker sending scents that tempt my tummy to think about baking spice cakes and pumpkin bread. No more key lime or rhubarb pies  or salads. Fall makes me want more carbs, stews and casseroles.

I’m being winterized. We changed furnace filters, even turned on the heat one day to warm my aching joints. Even weekly senior yoga classes don’t keep me limber enough during the cold days. Nights are earlier as the sun goes down before 7 p.m. teasing me to think about my cozy bed with the down comforter and flannel sheets. Buddy, my aging beagle who turns 13 in November, is sleeping more hours of the day, especially near the fireplace which usually warms us with a burning log.  I know it’s not efficient heat, but ohhhh, we do enjoy the real wood smell and cozy feeling as we relax, reading, in the old red leather chairs by the fire.

Perhaps it’s the burning fire that rekindles warm thoughts of yesteryear. When haven’t memories of campfires with s’mores stirred good memories? I recall the burning cross drifting from the shore at Luther Crest Bible Camp.  I remember guitars strumming as kids sat around campfires out at Halvorson’s Point on Lake Minnewaska singing Kingston Trio songs. And who can forget the evening when a few of us drug store workers learned how to smoke Virginia Slim cigarettes. I really remember coughing violently as my face burned with embarrassment. Cool did not describe my teenage years.

Roaring bonfires used to be part of fall’s Homecoming festivities at Glenwood High. I can still see Janet Holtberg and other cheerleaders energetically leading cheers for the football team in their blue-and-white striped sweaters with the big G and short skirts. Hayrides at Tommy Carston’s place and the dance parties with sloppy Joe’s and chips at Jerry Ogdahl’s and Jimmy Gilman’s basement party rooms were weekend treats. We swayed to “close dancing” songs and hummed along with Alvin and the Chipmunks. How we loved Rickie Nelson, Bobby Darin and Frankie’s songs about young love.

Back in those cold seasons, most kids and parents attended every school activity. Town folks supported every student event, whether they were football and basketball games, band and choir concerts or Christmas programs when we still sang songs about Baby Jesus. Just like Sunday morning church services and church suppers, any town event was well attended.  It was our social life, a time to enjoy neighbors and friends.

Falling leaves bring to mind church suppers of Swedish meatballs, fried chicken and roast beef always with fluffy mashed potatoes and corn scooped on those heavy china plates served in church basements by men and women in aprons. My favorite part was the dessert tables. Assorted pies, cake slices, bars and cookies were baked with real butter and sugar. Today, church suppers are fewer, but when they occur, politicians come out to shake hands hoping for your vote.

How many women still roll thin lefse and grill those freckled brown and white circles on their Bethany Heritage grills? That skill is becoming a lost art. And who has a treasured rosette iron or a krumkake grill or makes cream soup? I’m so happy a few folks still bake and decorate those luscious marzipan kransekake cakes so I can continue to serve it at my annual St. Lucia parties around Dec. 13. And what’s happened to cookie exchanges? Too many gals claim they need to diet rather than bake sugary goodies. But I still love those fancy sugar cookies made of real butter, decorated as Santas, snowmen and angels? When did kids stop trick or treating for caramel apples? When and why did Christmas concerts at schools stop singing our favorite Christmas carols?

Down at the lake, I know that soon I’ll see a crane lifting the boat lift out of the water onto the shore. Hopefully, we’ll be able to boat into November as we did the last few years when spectacular weather gifted us with a few more weeks of summer fun. But when the hoist arrives to pull out the lift, that’s the final sign that summer is over.