My entire train of thought on autumn, and home, and personal history, began on a walk from my childhood home to the nearby Walgreens to collect Listerine mouthwash and floss, as per my dentist’s instructions. A terribly mundane activity on an average morning allowed my mind to wander as I walked.
The heat wave of the past week had been broken by a brief but torrential storm on Saturday evening and left the area with markedly cooler temperatures - so cool, in fact, that I had been moved to put on a fleece over my gym clothes before stepping outside.
I had noted upon my arrival how heat feels differently everywhere - except, of course, in New England, where there is no real ‘heat.’ The feel and smell of the distinct brand of dense, humid air hung around me quite differently than the sweaty, filthy brand of humidity unique to Manhattan. Just as the heat varies geographically, so too does the cool.
Six years have past since my last true autumn in Saint Louis. The season has come to be my favorite in New York, and was a very close second to the long awaited spring breaking the seemingly endless dreariness of Maine winters while I was in college. I have been anticipating fall’s arrival for far too long, really, and was suddenly struck with the thought a few weeks ago that I was anticipating a type of autumn of which I had little to no memory. Did I enjoy fall in Saint Louis? Did the trees turn beautifully as they do in New England? Is the air perfectly crisp and fragrant as in New York? I couldn’t recall.
Walking tediously to Walgreens, I got my first taste - or re-taste, I suppose - of autumn in St. Louis. I was caught up in sensations that were hardly foreign to me, rather, they brought me back to elementary school, junior high, high school, different flashes of memories at different moments with some occurring simultaneously, all jumbled amongst each other.
The weather brought me back to a time when St. Louis was all that existed to me. I had no concept of the ‘culture’ of my family, my hometown, or the midwest, a culture I cling to when abroad (does the east coast count as abroad? my artistic license says yes). I had no concept of such a culture because in order to define it, I would have had to be able to define what it was not and therefore define it’s contrapositive. Living in Maine and then New York, I was able to define what home meant to me by what it lacked that I found in those new homes, and in what those places lacked that St. Louis held tightly.
But in my autumns in St. Louis, six years ago and earlier, St. Louis was my world. I enjoyed other places I had visited on vacation - Florida, New Orleans, London, Honduras - but the thought of building a life in any of these places, or any of the countless other places I had yet to visit, was just beyond my abilities of comprehension.
And now here I am - I’ve made lives in other places and returned to my life here, where I always imagined I would be.