To the MGMT of my local Yankee Candle:
I owe you an explanation. So here goes—
I’m thinking of breaking up with my girlfriend. She doesn’t think autumn is the best season. She says she likes all the seasons equally. It’s this kind of indecisiveness that frequently turns what are supposed to be brief jaunts to the grocery store into hour-and-a-half long Kafka-esque odysseys. Sure we end up with lots of delicious organic produce, but that’s not the point.
The point is: fall is unequivocally the greatest 90-some-days of the year, the Muhammad Ali of seasons. I know, I know, I’m talking to the people who invented candle scents like “Autumn Wreath” and “Vanilla Chai.” You know where I’m coming from, but just hear me out.
Take holidays for example. No offense to Christians, but Christmas and Easter are pretty sorry excuses for celebration. Have you ever heard of Halloween and Thanksgiving? Would you rather have a plastic pumpkin full of all different kinds of candy, a sugary smorgasbord of Skittles and Mars Bars and Twizzlers, or just a boring pink basket of Peeps? That’s what I thought. Peeps suck. Thanks for nothing, Jesus. Sure, God might have dreamt up the whole 23-and-a-half degree tilt of the Earth’s axis, but it was the Pagans and Pilgrims who realized autumn’s full potential.
Alright, so maybe Halloween’s been a bit bastardized by those big wigs at Nestlé and Hershey’s, but diabetes and the odd toilet-papered suburban tree are small prices to pay for all those costume-themed episodes of your favorite American TV shows—How I Met Your Mother, Two And A Half Men, The Big Bang Theory. OK, never mind, forget that part. Fine, so Halloween might not be all that, but Thanksgiving is undoubtedly the best. The goddam best, I tell you!
Some people think Thanksgiving and they think Macy’s Day Parade and the National Dog Show and Dallas Cowboys football. No doubt, those are important parts. But I’m always fixated on the most beautiful part of Thanksgiving, that All-American origin story. That’s what I was thinking about the other day in your store.
A little history lesson (make sure Billy reads this): before Jackie Robinson hit home runs, before Martin Luther King Jr. led marches, before Barack Obama got a bunch of electoral votes and capped Bin Laden, there were 53 Pilgrims and 90 American Indians sitting side by side, toasting their good fortune, and giving thanks for their first harvest in the New World—the first episode in our nation’s long and storied tradition of racial harmony.
I often imagine what it might have been like to be there, the white men proud to share their bounty with the Indians, and the Indians gracious enough to act impressed by the white men’s shitty crops (“yes, we see you used the fish in the hole trick,” they probably said, forcing a smile), polite enough to quietly nibble around the worms in the corn and compliment the pumpkin pie (a pumpkin pie that I have on good authority was mediocre at best). We’ve since repaid the Indians for such humility by carving beautiful wooden statues of them and placing them in the front windows of cigar stores. We’ve even named sports teams after them. It’s the kind of generosity that warms my heart.
Sure, there have been some bumps in the road since then—slavery for example, and Archie Bunker—but that shouldn’t keep us from honoring the picnic that put us on the path towards a post-racial America. Remember when Barack invited that Boston police officer and Harvard professor to the White House to drink 40s with him and Biden to solve the 21st century’s lingering race issues? Where do you think he got that idea?
Sometimes when I’m feeling sad, in-between turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwiches—thinking about those poor souls who for confounding reasons think summer or winter or spring are the best seasons, shedding the odd tear for the poor children who will never walk through the thick, smoky aroma of meat at a Saturday tailgate, who will never witness the foliage on an Ivy League quad—I gather up all my old copies of fall edition L.L. Bean catalogues, my Walkman and an old tape cassette of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, swing by my local Starbucks for a pumpkin-spiced latte, and head to the “Cinnamon Room” of the nearest Yankee Candle megastore.
There, I sprawl out on one of the ottomans and peruse the pages of flannel-lined corduroys and moccasins, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying (I cry whenever I listen to Neil Young). Occasionally—yesterday, for example—subconsciously, my hand will wander south, and I’ll begin to fondle my pelvic area. The staff usually doesn’t mind too much; they know to just politely tap me on the shoulder, remind me that I’m in a public place. They get fall. Plus, I’ve explained Pavlov to them many, many times.
Every once in a while, I’ll wonder if it’s just me, if maybe I’ve got it all backwards. Maybe turkey skin and mashed potatoes and gravy aren’t as great as my taste buds made them out to be. Maybe my eyes betrayed me and burnt sienna and harvest orange and deep purple aren’t the best colors ever. Maybe the dwindling levels of Chlorophyll that turn the green leaves of deciduous trees into brilliant shades of red and yellow and orange isn’t the most glorious scientific process in all of the natural world. Maybe footballs and sweaters and hayrides are just silly ways to pass the time while we wait for the glories of snowdrifts and pastels and beach vacations. Maybe they’re right. Maybe summer is the best, or maybe spring, or winter, even.
And then I think, nah. Those seasons are for assholes.
Brooks Butler Hays’s book,
Balls on the Lawn,
will be out in Spring, 2014 (Chronicle).