When I was in elementary school, roughly spanning second through fourth grades, each child received a monthly coloring book, printed in black and white, with a theme for the particular month. So October would be fall, November was Thanksgiving, December was Christmas, and so on. Each page had a different scene or object, and periodically throughout the month, the class would color a page or two, and when finished, take the coloring book home.
My mother kept every one of them, and consequently they now sit in a box in our basement, along with old report cards, drawings and artwork I did, all the things my mother decided were “keepers.”
These seasonal coloring books were clearly designed for classrooms in colder climes, likely the Midwest and Northeast. Why did I know that? Because the October issue always had fall as its theme, and we didn’t have fall in New Orleans, although I had seen it once or twice while visiting relatives in Shreveport. The January and February issues were always about playing in the snow. And I do remember snow in New Orleans – twice, in fact, once when I was 7 and the second time when I was 12. (I also remember my father scooping up snow from outside and making something he had enjoyed as a child – snow ice cream.) But the snow in those coloring books was about mounds of the stuff, not the paltry snowfalls we had in New Orleans.
The trees in those coloring books were different, too – pines and maples and things that shed leaves. I was more familiar with live oaks, cypresses, mimosas and palm trees.
We didn’t have a sharply defined fall. It wasn’t the stereotyped joke about New Orleans weather – that the city had three seasons: summer, July and August. But out seasons were less distinct. The heat of summer gradually lessened in September and October (October can be a glorious month in New Orleans), and you might even be wearing a jacket or light sweater in November.
Those coloring books, though – there was sometimes a sense that you were missing something. Sledding. Ice-skating. Skiing. Snowball fights. Building snowmen. Wild swaths of golden and red trees. (Raking leaves wasn’t something anyone would miss.) And tulips in the spring – every April coloring book had tulips, and it is a flower that didn’t – couldn’t – grow in New Orleans.
Living for the last 32 years in the Midwest, I’ve seen more than my fair share of snow, not to mention leaves that needed raking. But Fall is still my favorite time of the year. I think it’s because I’ve always associated it with beginnings – like the beginning of school (or the beginning of school and the football season in college).
Every season, including Fall, is a season of faith. In one sense, it’s a season that lasts all year long. In another sense, the season of faith goes through its own changes and growth. These days, I find myself thinking about those coloring books from childhood, and how, in a way, they did what faith does: always there, always changing, something you had to work at, something that was a reminder of something that might be better and more complete one day.
Over at Faith Barista, Bonnie Gray is hosting a blog carnival on the journey of faith as you enter the fall season. To see more posts, please visit Faith Barista.
Photograph: Red Leaf by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.