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Guest column | Jerry Cowling

Fall's gifts: fun, food, surprises

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. Winter was too cold, spring had tornadoes and summer was too hot. Autumn was just right.

It was also the season of my birthday, Halloween and Thanksgiving. What could be better than that?

I never had an actual birthday party because the word "party" sounded too expensive to my mother. Having a couple of kids over for cake and soda pop, that sounded reasonable. Party meant inviting kids who would expect more than just cake. I don't know what she was thinking about, maybe pony rides and clowns. One year I invited the banker's son over for cake and my mother said in no uncertain terms he couldn't come because we couldn't afford it.

"That's okay," the banker's son replied when I told him. "I just won't invite you to my birthday party." I don't know if he was going to have pony rides or clowns either.

But still birthdays were happy. Mother baked my favorite cake, German sweet chocolate. I always went to the movies on my birthday. Back then the ticket was 10 cents for children. Sometimes my parents allowed me to pick a day trip as long as it didn't include an admission ticket and wasn't more than hour's drive.

And I got a present. Getting anything was a big deal.

Halloween was fun because of trick or treating. Mother drove my friends and me to nice neighborhoods where the treats were better. Then there was the school Halloween carnival. I liked to see everyone dressed up in costumes. I usually got a mask to wear with my regular blue jeans and shirts. Proceeds went to the PTA so mother gave me a dollar in change to go from classroom to classroom playing games.

Thanksgiving was eating a lot of food that we didn't ordinarily have the rest of the year. The Macy's parade was exciting to watch on television. I'd call out to mother to come see a pretty float. By the time she ran in from the kitchen they had gone on to the next marching band.

When I was very small we took turns eating at my aunts' houses. We saw cousins from exotic places like Fort Worth. I think I liked the cooking of one of my aunts better than my mother's food. But I'd never tell her that. One year, the two aunts decided to have Thanksgiving dinner without us for some reason that was never explained to me. All I know my mother was really ticked off, and Thanksgiving was never quite the same after that.

As I think back on it, autumn wasn't much better than the other seasons, except I did like the weather. Tornadoes, heat and snow can ruin a good time.

Now I'm in the autumn of my life, and it's the best age so far. By the time you get to the autumn of life you don't have to be uptight because you didn't meet your goals. You reached the ones you could, which means you did the best you could. If you fulfilled all your dreams maybe you didn't dream big enough. About all anyone can expect out of life is to do the best you can, even though it's not what you originally wanted.

Also, you get surprised by things that you weren't expecting, sort of like trick-or-treating. Instead of the hard candy you usually find in your bag you pull out a Snickers. It's been that way with me. I've started telling stories to folks of all ages. Most people don't even know what storytelling is anymore. When television came along we told grandpa to shut up because Marshal Dillon was about to shoot the bad guy.

My mission is to bring storytelling back with funny voices, hand gestures, facial expressions and original tales. First adults and children crinkle their foreheads and say they don't know what storytelling is. Children especially start out really shy or cynical. When I get going good and my arms are flying and my voice is high, low, loud and soft, they lean forward, their mouths open and then they smile and applaud.

It's like getting a Snickers.

Jerry Cowling is a free-lance writer and storyteller who lives in Brooksville.

Fall's gifts: fun, food, surprises 11/25/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 25, 2010 6:48pm]
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