I’ve long said that I’m past the age of favourites. When I was younger, I had a favourite colour, number, food, and book. Picking something as an unqualified best is equally juvenile: best movie, book, number, restaurant, country, city, or friend. Perhaps I’m just fickle, and uncomfortable with a single best. But as the warm weather begins to fade, and Labour Day becomes a distant memory, I am reminded again of what might be my favourite season.
I live in Canada. Though the climate varies slightly from sea to sea, a long winter is consistent for most of it. Winter in Canada is often portrayed as harsh and cruel because it is harsh and cruel. One can leave the house at eight in the morning to get to the office, and it’ll be pitch black outside. By the time they return at six, it is once again tar black outside. The first snowfall hits sometime around the end of November, and white Christmases are the norm, even with global warming. Though its association with reunions and celebration make it pleasant the last snowfall is usually around April, and snow can be seen in parking lots until May. Regardless of what meteorologists say, winter in Canada lasts virtually half the year. Skiing and skating are fun in the winter, as is the occasional brisk winter hike. Sleeping under a thick duvet on a cold night is a feeling that few things beat, but despite it all, winter is harsh and cruel.
Spring in Canada is a requiem for winter and a harbinger of summer. Few appreciate it for what it is, because by the time May rolls around, everyone is hoping for warmer and warmer days. But there isn’t much to spring. A few long weekends aside, I have no fond associations with the season. Every year, I hope for the snow the melt faster and for Raptors to make the playoffs. Though it has a similar temperature profile to fall, I tend to think of it as wet — if not for rain, at least for the melting snow — and pastels have never been my colour.
Summer in Canada is tremendous. Though the complaint is that there are only two months of summer, July and August, everyone behaves as though summer starts in May, and extends a few weeks past Labour Day. It’s often said that Canadians squeeze every drop of juice from summer because the winters are so long, but I think everyone in the world likes summer. There are patios, parks and pools, as well as feasts, festivals, and fairs. It’s undeniable that summer is the best season in Canada, if not in most countries. My finances are always a wreck by the time summer ends, and I enter fall with a resolution to save some money.
But it is autumn that is my favourite season. The precise reason is hard to articulate, but there are many extraneous ones that are more appreciable. Of course, fall weather is one of my favourites. All variety of footwear is on the table, and there are the most options for tops as well. There is a slim chance of getting too hot or two cold, with the option of adding and removing layers. I’m not a Halloween nut, but I have many fond memories associated with it. Similarly, Thanksgiving and Mid-Autumn festival are always a great time for reunions with friends and family respectively. I’m a big apple eater, and the fall is the only time when I’ll venture outside of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp; every apple tastes good during the fall. But none of these individually, or even as an ensemble truly capture fall for me.
If winter is dark, and summer is fun, then fall is apprehensive. Every time the leaves start changing colours and the crisp autumn breeze hits my nostrils, I feel a bizarre sense of apprehension and nostalgia. Deep down, I know it has something to do with the start of school, despite being five years from the last time I started school. Something in the air triggers a flood of not memories, but feelings, coursing through my body, doping it up for whatever it was I needed to face. I wasn’t bullied as a child, nor was I particularly anxious, but I still approached the Tuesday after the first Monday of September with a tinge of nervousness and excitement. I loved school; there wasn’t a single year that I didn’t like my classes, teachers, or my classmates.
For five years now, this sense of apprehension is indissociable with autumn. Though I’m surprised, I shouldn’t be. It was a habit of eighteen years of my life. In fall, I do things with a renewed passion, treating it with more seriousness than New Years. Ironically, I cling desperately to the warm weather as well, wearing shorts whenever I can, and play sports outside, knowing that I won’t be able to in a month. Even though as an adult, I only keep the company I want, I seek to reacquaint myself with old friends in the fall. I also think about family a lot, reminded of the years I spent living with them, fourteen consecutive autumns of my life.
Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t bullied or anxious as a child that I identify positively with these feelings. I have spent more of my life in school than outside of it, and more of my Septembers entering an educational institution than not, but I was also a nerd. I was made for the rigidity and scoreboard of school. I thrived in the environment, and all my peers who did as well were my friends. I look forward to walking towards the school, walking into the classroom, and walking around the schoolyard. It is in school that I peaked, or at the least, had a local maximum. Virtually all my friends were made when I was in school, and a majority of my best memories as well. Life moves on, but these feelings do not.
Though my rationale sounds fickle, my love of autumn is firm. Perhaps the irrational anticipation that autumn brings will one day fade, and I can go back to liking summer, like every other mature Canadian. But I’m not sure that the sense of apprehension will ever fade, nor if I ever want it to. For school has spent eighteen years shaping my life, and whatever I gave it, it returned to me in kind. It’s to these fond memories, and the elusive anticipation of making more, that I cling to in my favourite season. So, indulge an old man in his childish fantasies, and let him continue to have his favourite season like a young boy does.