I love fall. It’s always amazing how in the beginning it sneaks up on you – as trees start to shed their leaves even though temperatures still feel balmy. Then with a blink of the eye, the days are shorter and everything smells like burning wood and cinnamon spices, the symphony of colors rage with splashes of yellow, red and orange while the cooling air feels crisp and begs for jeans and an oversized sweater. I do not love waking up when it’s still dark, but almost everything else I love.

For me, fall also means gearing up for more family time, which I seem to want more of the older I get. My kids both started college this fall so I’m looking forward to having them home again for the holidays. I know, my next column will be about how I am looking forward to them going back to school again, but for now I’m excited at the thought of them being around – dirty dishes, shoes in the middle of the floor, every light on in the house, and all.

And with the holidays comes time with extended family, too. While I see my sisters pretty regularly, the holidays present opportunities for bigger gatherings with stepfamilies and aunts and uncles and cousins.

We also think about those who can’t be with us. For my brother who lives in California and just doesn’t travel home for the holidays, it presents a time to talk about him and judge all of his life decisions. But for others, who are no longer with us, it’s a time to remember. Like we often reminisce over Mom’s love of all things holiday and her efforts over the year to think outside the box – like the time she bought a white tablecloth for Thanksgiving so we could all write what we’re thankful for. I’ll just note that it’s very hard to write on fabric and even harder to read what is written on there after a washing – but it was a win because the kids thought writing on the table during dinner was amazing.

family gatheringsI had fun writing a lighthearted article in this issue about the types of different family members who show up for the holidays. I want to make it very clear – my ability to enjoy the impending holiday gatherings may depend on it – that the characters described in the article are not based on my actual family members. I had fun doing the research – many people were eager to share their “I’ve got this family member who…” stories and I pulled commonalities out of them and created generalized characters. That said, I think most of us will have family members that come to mind as we’re reading the piece.

I suspect not everyone loves time with their family, and I also acknowledge that not everyone is blessed to have a family to spend time with. For some people, family comes in the form of neighbors and friends and coworkers. And for some people, gatherings might be more about football tailgating or running a Turkey Trot with friends from the gym. My hope is that you are able to find some characters to unwind and catch up with as the days grow shorter and the night air gets too cold to keep the windows open.

Here’s to a happy fall to all.

Kym Byrnes

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