It is time. Against incredible odds, the moment has arrived. Today, I drink from the keg of glory, beating my chest in a primeval gesture of triumph.
Today, boxes and bags emerge from the dark, hidden spaces of my garage. Contained in these dusty, long-forgotten receptacles, my own holy grail will be revealed. With absolute reverence I will unwrap ceramic pumpkins. Gingerly, I will unpack cornucopias. Scarecrows, pilgrims, and turkeys will be brought forth, one-by-one, to take their places of honor within my home. Today, fall officially arrives at my household, heralded and festooned with the finest decorations in all the land.
Please don’t mock me. Unless you live in the Sonoran Desert, you cannot imagine the abysmal hell that I yearly endure from May until October. Temperatures remain well above 100-degrees for months, leaving mere mortals with no margin or mercy. It is a little-known and seldom-mentioned fact that God personally relocates Hell to the city limits of Phoenix during this time.
Those of us residing in Purgatory increase in suffering as the mercury in the thermometer rises. Beginning in April, we determine to face the weather with more grace and acceptance than in years past. We fortify ourselves with positive thinking. “We can’t complain,” we delude ourselves. “After all, we’ve had a beautiful spring. And at least we don’t have to shovel sunshine,” we defiantly guffaw. Memorial Day finds us in the swimming pools or at nearby lakes, standing over grills while we flip burgers and roast hot dogs. The fact that this can just as easily be done on the hood of our cars, heated by the sun’s scorching rays, is overlooked. It is simply too hot to speak in complete sentences so we suffer in silence as we sweat in 100-degree-temperatures.
By Labor Day, our parched souls whisper pleas for mercy and salvation through dry, cracked lips. We drag ourselves across this mental finish line on hands and knees blistered by the sand and sun. Hope for cooler temperatures shimmers like a mirage just out of reach. And yet we know we are close. It is only hot until Halloween. After that, God abandons His yearly experiment with moving Hell to Arizona and temperatures once again return to ranges conducive to human and plant life forms.
Since ancient times – at least 1993 when my daughter was born – I have celebrated this hope with wild abandon. In a pagan ritual designed to satisfy the anger of the Sun and Weather gods I offer up faux squash, dried maple leaves, and Indian corn in a beribboned cornucopia formed from grapevines. I sacrifice my dignity in an attempt to appease the gods’ anger by placing tailsmen disguised as smiling, happy scarecrows throughout my home. Incense, in the form of pumpkin-and-cinnamon-spiced candles, rises in the air in an attempt to sweeten the gods’ humor.
After years of this Labor Day ritual, it has become a favorite tradition in our home. Although temperatures will remain in the triple digits until Halloween, our home will resemble the splendor of a New England fall by the end of the weekend. Even as adults, my daughter and sons smile at the decorations and secretly enjoy this annual Labor Day weekend tradition.
And who knows? Perhaps my rituals are finally having some effect on the Sun and Weather gods. After all, temperatures today are a mere 103-degrees. I think I’ll celebrate by turning down the air-conditioning a few degrees and enjoying a tall glass of iced tea, surrounded by the beauty of a faux fall.