"A season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, a luminous month of glowing fall foliage, bright orange pumpkins, and a bittersweet sense of change."
Contrary to the view of my 4-year-old grandson, there's a lot more to the month of October than Halloween. But don't count on your powers of persuasion to convince him otherwise.
"Halloween day! Halloween day!" he screamed in my ear, as we drove through his ghost-, goblin- and pumpkin-decorated neighborhood on Sunday. Not even his wiser, second-grade sister could convince him it wasn't time for the scary lion costume he was struggling to put on by the time she and I had made it through the front door after him.
"Yes, Honey, you're looking scary all right, but it's not..."
Save your breath, Grandma. The only tense the Pre-K set understands is now!
I'll leave the logistics to his mom and exasperated sister, I had my patience-teaching turn with their dad. But the incident drove me to my trusty, "just-the-facts-ma'am" almanac to see what we celebrate or remember on the other days of the poet's "luminous month."
As almanacs are wont to do, some months have their clues about the next season's weather, and October is a grand fortune teller for winter. Consider:
-- If autumn leaves are slow to fall, expect a cold winter.
-- Rain in October, wind in December; warm October, cold February.
-- You can also tell the harshness of the winter by the skin or shell of the year's fruit, vegetables and nuts. As a rule, the thicker the exterior, the harsher the winter or, "Onion skins very thin, mild winter coming in; Onion skins thick and tough, coming winter cold and rough." (Now you tell me, after I've thrown all those "exteriors" into the garbage.)
October has birthed its share of notables including former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and presidents John Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester A. Arthur, Dwight David Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter. The "Halloween Day month" also brought us musicians Jenny Lind, John Lennon and Paul Simon. Author A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh, march composer John Phillips Sousa's stint as director of the U.S. Marine Corps Band, and John Wesley Hyatt's popular invention, the billiard ball, all debuted in October 1926, 1880, and 1865, respectively.
A rash of notable events, both good and bad, occurred in October, too:
Is there a present or former school child who doesn't know Columbus discovered, well, some place near America (probably the Bahamas) in 1492, or that British General Charles Cornwallis surrendered to American General George Washington at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781?
Late 19th century October events included the dedication of the Statue of Liberty; and the origin of Rural Free Mail Delivery, the brain child of Columbia County-born, and later McDuffie County favorite son, Thomas Watson.
Unfortunate October events include the Stock Market crash of 1929, the Dow's 508-point, 22 percent drop in 1987, and the conclusion that "October is one of the peculiarly dangerous months of the year to speculate in stocks." Some might include the founding of the United Nations in 1945 as an unfortunate event. And it's likely few students are ever taught that the United States government went into debt for the first time on Oct. 3, 1776, one day shy of three months after the Declaration of Independence was signed. The reason? To cover wartime expenses.
But we mustn't leave the poet's luminous month, or end with his final bittersweet phrase, referring to the seasonal change least anticipated by everyone except owners and guests of the nation's ski resorts, for there is more good October news than bad to share. No matter what the temperature or the density of the skin on your onions, October always has exactly 19 fine days, or so claims the almanac. And, although the swallows will be leaving San Juan Capistrano on the 23rd of the month, they'll return with equal precision in time for the birthday of my impatient grandson's daddy on March 19th.
Few things in life are as dependable as migrating swallows, recurring birthdays or impatient Halloween Day celebrants, be they four, 14 or 40-plus years of age.
Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to seabara at aol.com.
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