November

Last week State College cancelled Halloween. Well, they postponed it. A storm came through. Lots of rain. Even more wind.

Katie and I watched the trees whip in the wind from the windows in our sunroom. Our backyard has about nineteen trees. Pine trees. Other kinds of trees with leaves. I’d name them for you, but I’m no arborist. Arbor day? Who needs it?

Anyway, you should have seen the trees toss to and fro. Fro and to. One pine tree loomed menacingly over Solomon’s bedroom. Another tree with leaves swung ominously over our sunroom.

“You think they’ll fall?” I asked Katie.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe.”

Don’t tell my insurance company, but I could use a new roof. Some new windows, too. But I don’t want anybody to get hurt. Quite a predicament.

There was a huge tree in my backyard in Northeast Minneapolis. A maple? An oak? Beats me. Like I said, arbology is a mystery to me. That tree would creak in the wind. Finally, a storm came through on the fourth of July. 2011? 2012? Something like that. I woke up to find that the tree had come down. A little bit landed on my garage. Most of the tree was in my neighbor’s yard. Houses in Northeast Minneapolis are very close to each other. So it was a small miracle that the tree hadn’t taken a house with it. Or a neighbor. Or me. God’s providence.

Sheepishly, I knocked on my neighbor’s door. A man with a neat mustache answered. He was wearing a silk robe. Minneapolis is teeming with hipsters.

“My tree is in your backyard,” I told him.

“Oh.”

Insurance covered the damage. A few weeks later, my backyard was roomier. My garage had a new roof. My neighbors were mildly annoyed. But they moved a year later. Two more hipsters took their place. All was well that ended well, or something.

I have a history with trees and storms. Here’s a recent picture of the house I grew up in. In Highland Park. In St. Paul:

Nice place, right? You’d never guess at the dysfunction that occurred inside from about 1980-1987. Read this. Despite that chaos, I miss my family. Miss my childhood home, too. If this picture had been taken prior to 1987, you’d have seen two enormous pine trees in the front yard. Each tree was over 100 years old.

A thunderstorm came through one night. In 1987. Bang. Boom. Crash. A pine tree fell into the house. My sister’s bedroom smelled like a Christmas Tree. Want to hear the story? Read this.

We couldn’t use the front door for a month. But, eventually, the tree was removed and the damage was repaired. All was well that ended well, or something. Until my dad lost his insurance license and stopped making payments on the house. Want to hear that story, too? Read this.

This is all to say that I have some experiences with storms. And with trees falling down. In fact, a tree in my forested backyard fell last summer. Thank God it landed on my fence. The deductible still cost me over $1,500. I’m not a rich man. But we survived.

No trees came down on Halloween. But it was fun to watch them dance in the wind.

***

This is, hands down, the most beautiful November I’ve spent in Central Pennsylvania. The leaves turned a perfect sort of gold in a perfect sort of autumn. Did they litter my backyard? You betcha. But I learned a lazy man’s trick. Mow ’em up. Who needs a rake?

We walked around the neighbor two days after the wind storm passed. Solomon dressed like Luigi. Samson was dressed like a Purple Melvin. From the Cars movie. Don’t worry. Nobody else knows what that is, either. Our elderly neighbors handed out candy. Solomon and Samson fought over who got to ring the doorbells.

“Trick or treat!” Solomon and Samson shouted at the old folks.

“How about a treat?” A laughing old lady sad.

Solomon and Samson looked at her awkwardly until she gave them candy.

And the sky was orange and pink and red. You should see the sunset over the rolling hills out here. It’s something. A crisp November wind bit my lungs as we walked through the twilight with our boys. Pretty cool. Literally and figuratively.

Winter is coming. But winters in Pennsylvania are mild compared to Minneapolis. They’ll be wet snow to shovel. Lots of school closings. But the rest of winter is easy to handle out here.

I slept with the window opened during the recent wind storm I mentioned above. I love falling asleep to the changing of the seasons. If you scroll back to the picture of my childhood home, you’ll notice a window on the second floor. In November, way back in 1985 or 1986, that window was often open as I let the crisp air in to help me fall asleep. Wrapped in my green blanket. Green blanky.

I like that memory.

***

I like my small family in State College, PA. The little life we’ve made for ourselves out here. For the moment. Nothing is permanent. There’s certain to be gusts of winds. Storms. Things will get shaken up. I like November because it’s a visible reminder of change. And things are always changing. So it goes.

But things are good right now. It’s a nice November.

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