The good news is pumpkin ice cream starts showing up pretty soon on the shelves where I do my shopping. Bad news is there are still seven more weeks remaining till Halloween, and no other holidays to monopolize pharmacy windows and department store dioramas and everywhere children’s books are displayed. Seems like by the time we finally put on our costumes we’re exhausted with the whole thing. Either that or we never took it urgently enough, and the kids all end up going to school dressed as hobos and slutty rock stars. Columbus Day, anyone?
Too bad we cannot consistently rely upon the foliage anymore to get our hearts rushing, or decorate our best-laid plans. Climate change being what it is, the summer tends to roll right over a cliff into winter where I live, which is not incidentally where a great many movies are filmed to try and capture at least a little of the yearning, the excitement – the nostalgia? – we associate with autumn. These seasonal interludes may last thirty or forty seconds in the theater, but you would not guess it from the neighborhood upheaval. If you fail to move your car, they will tow it. Dollies, lights and breakfast spreads descend. Everyone cranes for movie stars. Once upon a time assistants used to climb up into branches with artificial garlands, though I gather such gold and orange transformations can nowadays be accomplished digitally, so who knows what those assistants are doing now. Operating the snow blowers probably. Man, autumn takes some engineering. To make it, maybe, just how we remember, though I wonder if it is ever a whole season we are attempting to represent, or only a single, perfect day.
As with Emily Jenkins’s and Stephanie Graegin’s Water in the Park a few months ago, I did not immediately thrill to the appearance of Fall Ball by Peter McCarty: anodyne, it looked like, from the cover. Plus, I haven’t watched football since the Eighties, and reserve a special contempt for the sort of children’s book where anyone hits a home run, or scores a touchdown, or nails a triple salchow, thereby gaining the admiration of everyone who thought they were a big fat waste of time to begin with. Sports as redemption? Oh, shut up.
Plus, the kids on the cover look like Weebles.
But there ends up being very little football played here, two girls are furthermore included, and it’s anyway the hurry and the anticipation which are finally more important than the facts of the game: between the bumpy bus ride back from school – kids whirling and floating up out of their seats like the fallen leaves outside – and the onset of darkness when they’ve pledged to return home. There’s a breathlessness here which is true to the promise, but also the limits, of autumn. If Water in the Park showed how epic a day could feel in the middle of the summer – heading out, and heading out, until it’s often difficult to remember one’s beginning from its end – then McCarty has likewise succeeded in reproducing those rare and racing occasions that always leave us wishing for a little more.