I have officially become my mother.
I suspected this was happening the first time I heard myself ask my children who they thought the magical fairy was that put the dirty dishes they had left on the counter into the dishwasher. I questioned her takeover of my being the first time I had a conversation about Crock-Pot recipes. I knew a piece of the young, carefree me had died the first time I bought a pair of sensible shoes.
Ultimately, though, it was not cleanliness, convenience or comfort that sealed it. I have been in denial for several years, but it is time I face the harsh truth that both plagues and comforts me every autumn: Just like my mother, I am a fall foliage fanatic.
For all of my dependent life, my only memories of October (outside of my birthday and Halloween) involved driving around Overland Park at the rate of a turtle so my mom could observe and provide incessant commentary about the beauty of the changing leaves upon the trees that lined our streets.
She would stop at every intersection and poke along every thoroughfare taking in with awe and wonder the reds and yellows and oranges that washed over the swaying branches week by week. There wasn’t a destination in the county that didn’t include the scarlet-colored maple on Lowell or the blazing golden cottonwoods on 103rd. And there wasn’t a day that went by from the first fading of green to the last leaf to fall that we children were not subjected to Mom’s monologue on the glory of the season.
By the time we could drive ourselves, my sister and I would entertain each other to and from school every fall by braking at random, exclaiming, “Look at that tree! Will you just look at that tree?” in our best Mom voices, much like we used to make fun of her questioning us about the magical fairy or like we still make fun of her passion for QVC.
But now the mom in the minivan slowing down for the maples and the cottonwoods is the same mom who vowed to never own the minivan in the first place.
And now my own children sit captive in the backseat, subject to their mother’s seemingly inexplicable infatuation with the fiery hues that rustle in the wind and paint our landscapes. I hear the mocking gasps and oohs and ahhs that follow my oral observation of nature’s seasonal beauty, and I know they are directed at me.
And, just like my mom, I do not care. I now understand that summer’s majestic exit, punctuated by Mother Nature’s final dazzling of her trees like a Bob Ross painting, before leaving us to weather out the cold, dull winter, cannot be fully appreciated until you have reached the age where a clean kitchen, a warm Crock-Pot and a comfortable pair of shoes make any day better. Quite clearly, this brilliant leaf has not fallen far from the tree.