The other night, as I was trying to find a parking space at 9:30pm after taking a student to a softball try-out 40 minutes away my mind was focused on getting to my bed so I could sleep. But my subconscious was wide awake and had different ideas. I finally found a back street with a parking spot, worked some parallel magic and shut my engine off. I was walking, head down through this beautiful side street as I had done so many times before, but this time was different. As I shuffled my feet through the drying leaves and I heard that familiar crunch I was transported back to my New England roots where autumn brought hot cocoa, halloween, and backyard football. Where soon the biting wind would take nips at your exposed skin in an effort to remind you just how underdressed and poorly prepared you are for the walk to school.
I smiled a bit, because for a second, for a short second I was a kid again, with all the world ahead of me. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not upset about where my life is, far from it. I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world. I am engaged to a beautiful woman who puts up with my idiosyncrasies. I have walked with warriors in Kenya, ridden a motorcycle to Alaska, got published by the Smithsonian, play in a band that gigs frequently, and I am the department head of science for grades 1-12 at a private school. I am, by all means, extremely happy.
But nothing compares to the untainted happiness of a child with the world in front of him. So as I shuffled through, I smiled at the thought of the walks to school with the Shanahans, throwing a football back and forth. I thought of the terrace becoming Fenway park, or Foxboro stadium, or The Garden. I thought of the times we had, the joys of victory, and the agony of defeat.
I thought of my friends growing up, the wonderful people who were just as excited and scared by the huge world looming in front of them.
The beauty of our social media filled life is that I can keep up with these friends on an hourly basis. How I can follow how hard Mattera is working at making the Hungry Whale a successful eatery, and how anyone who knows him is well aware that he has the determination, brains, and ability to make it that successful and more.
I can follow along as Drinon gets pissed at a woman for telling him to smile on a Tuesday because it is almost Friday, then I can join in the fun and make jokes about how it’s almost Monday when it’s Friday. Or how I didn’t know that he was such a great photographer and artist.
I can see the happiness in Patrick’s life as he and his new wife start a new life in a home that has been in his family for so long.
I can watch as Austin and his wife start a successful business, and what we know will be a successful family as his wife becomes closer and closer to her due date.
I sit back and reflect on all this and remember the dumb things we did, or how at some points in life we all strayed from the path we are on, but how somehow, we all managed to find our way back.
Autumn is a special time in life, I feel for those people who don’t get to go through the changing seasons, I feel they will never understand life. People love the spring, the spring is a time of rebirth and new life. Everyone feels they can conquer the world in the spring. But so few people forget about the importance of autumn, the time of reflection. The time to sit back and wonder what went right, or went wrong in the past so we can make the future a better place.
So I sit here, a cold air outside, my beard and hair getting longer for the impending winter, some fried sweet potatoes and a pumpkin spiced coffee by my side……and I smile. You see I have grown up in a wonderful life with wonderful people. Thanksgiving will soon be upon us and I will get to, for a short time, have my path in life intersect with those I have known since I was a child, the people who have seen you go from clutching your moms pants on the first day of school, to clutching your child’s hand on their first day of school.
The road home is always a path with familiar landmarks that bring a rush of memories back to you, a familiar road where you don’t need street signs to tell you the way because the landmarks are so familiar you know where you are.
The only person who can sum this up is a fellow New Englander….
When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,