By Anne T. Donahue
This autumn, I’m daring to dream. Instead of mourning summer or counting down until Christmas, I’m revelling in the magic of doom, gloom, and an abundance of layers and embracing the majesty that is Elderly Autumn.
Elderly Autumn is about boundaries. It’s about sensibility. It’s about buying puzzles you will only complete once before donating them to Value Village and then buying more. Scented candles and piping-hot beverages: that’s Elderly Autumn. And because I’m the most elderly of them all, here is how you can achieve it, too.
Prioritize comfort: soft fabrics, generous waists, chafe-free everything
The greatest seasonal gift is the glorious period in which one can cocoon physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Thus enter: the Elderly Autumn uniform. Defined by fleece, non-itch knits (some of us have the skin of a pear in that we cannot be exposed to any elements at any time, lest we literally disintegrate), and pants so baggy you risk losing your own body in, the season demands comfort at all costs – as well as sensible shoes.
Believe it or not, Gen Z has it right. While we millennials grew up and poured our bodies into skinny jeans and belted everythings, our successors wear whatever they want whenever they want, and champion a style of pant not seen since the late 1990s. This pant – these “carpenter jeans” and/or “wide legs” – have also been embraced by another demographic: anybody vying for comfort. (And Mary Berry in seasons one through eight of Great British Bake Off. The woman loved a generous denim, and I loved her for it.) Now we can bloat and nap in comfort. The future, dear friends, is now.
You thought we’d graduate from these after lockdown? That we’d forsake our dearest indoor activity in the name of progress and/or repressed memories? Never. Puzzles are our companions; our answer to “too much screen time” and not being able to touch grass because it’s too cold and rainy out. Puzzles are a time capsule, catapulting those choosing to participate through many hours that quickly become unaccounted for. They are the fast-track to mindfulness if one defines mindfulness as spending a full hour of SVU trying (in vain) to find a corner piece you swore was right there. They do not necessitate small talk and they never talk back. They are patient, they are kind. They’re one of the reasons my grandma would get audibly angry, and for that, I respect them.
Every summer, I internally weep at the fact that I cannot go to bed early because I’ll feel like a sickly person if I’m cozied up before sunset. And then comes autumn, and by 8 p.m. I begin to consider what my pajamas will be, what time I should begin applying all 2528525 of my face creams, and which episode of [insert any comfort-watch here] I should fall asleep to.
The idea of “going out” after 9 p.m. frightens me – it is an event that requires weeks of preparation coupled with the acceptance that I might be tired the next day. Fortunately, anything that begins around twilight come autumn is a bona fide event; a date marked in one’s calendar, and usually entrenched in a sit-down meal defined by foods so filling you will roll away from the table, happy as a clam. Clams may even be served. Whether they are happy to be there remains to be seen.
Piping hot beverages at all times
If I’m not sipping something so hot that it burns my mouth to the point that my eyes water, why are any of us even here? Truly, an autumn beverage is not autumnal enough until I give a satisfied, “That’s the stuff” after chasing my boiling tea with tepid tap water.
I never understood my grandparents’ day-to-day lives until I was old enough to covet the power of a routine. A routine! Imagine! (You don’t need to – you can just have one.)
While summer is the season in which we pretend to be free-wheeling and/or fancy-free, autumn brings boundaries. It delivers a schedule. It encourages nothing spur-of-the-moment, and it counts “quick trip to the mall” and/or “fast errand” as moments in history to be remembered. This fall, I have a routine – I have a day-to-day plan. It’s none of your business what it is, but sleep well tonight knowing that it exists and that it makes me feel alive. Am I becoming too set in my ways? Too afraid of breaking with tradition (see: if I don’t have a glass of iced coffee and a glass of juice every morning I will perish) that I’ve become hardened to change? Perhaps. But this is my time – this is Elderly Autumn. And if you need me, you can find me wearing my sensible sneakers and large pantaloons, complaining that my newly-poured tea just isn’t hot enough. (Or is it too hot?)
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