Welcome November©Averyell A. KesslerIt’s November in Mississippi. The last remnants of summer are fading fast, and fall is tapping me on the shoulder. I am pleased that the South’s frying pan summer has been scrubbed, rinsed, and placed on a high shelf. The evidence is clear. The sun shines at a different angle, August’s steam bath air is drifting away. The abundant caladiums in my yard are taking a last gasp. My puff ball hydrangeas have dropped their leaves before the first frost arrives. It’s not sweater cold yet, but it’s coming. I have no scientific background or meteorological expertise, so I’ll use neophyte words. Fall is here. I can smell it, touch it, and hear it crackle as I rake up a mound of crisp oak leaves and desiccated pinecones the squirrels have nibbled into nothing. “Get ready,” it says. “Pull out your old blue turtleneck, a pair of thick socks, warm pants, and that pea coat hiding in your closet.”Because of Jackson’s mercurial weather, my midwestern parents had difficulty determining exactly when fall arrived. Even after the Labor Day gong sounded, it was still as hot as a biscuit oven. Things changed without warning. One day, a cool breeze swooped through Belhaven shaking tree limbs and covering the lawn with spiny gum balls. The next day, Mama was happy she hadn’t packed away my sandals and shorts because my hopscotch squares were still pulling me outside. Finally, I learned Mama’s never fail sign that fall had arrived, the appearance of oatmeal on our breakfast table.Goodbye, Sugar Smacks and Frosty O’s. So long, snap, crackle, and pop. Even our humble box of unpretentious Corn Flakes went into temporary hibernation. Hello, rosy cheeked Quaker man with fluffy white hair and a broad black hat. Although Mama did her best, sprinkling on a thick coating of sugar and cinnamon, I considered oatmeal close kin to Elmer’s paste or freshly poured concrete. It was filing, nothing more.It was also a season of change at Power School. The steamy, unairconditioned classrooms were no longer intolerable. Miss Williams moved her heroic oscillating fan into storage, and fourth graders dashed across the playground without working up a sweat. Even the hot, golden rolls in the cafeteria tasted better. I also learned a magical phrase that would be repeated many times. Tommy Edelman said it first, soon after the morning bell rung. “It’s snowing in Vicksburg,” he whispered. “It’ll be here soon.” His words spread around my classroom like a California wildfire.My mouth fell open. “Snow?” I gasped. I looked outside and saw a clear blue sky.“Yeah” he answered. “I heard it on the radio on the way to school.”The classroom erupted in giddy excitement. Miss William wasted a good ten minutes calming us down, carefully explaining that barring a drastic change in the weather, snow was impossible. Even on a crisp November day.I remained hopeful and spent most of the afternoon watching a bright sky from my classroom window. Finally, just before the final bell rang, it happened. A low hanging cluster of grey clouds crept in from the west.“How far is Vicksburg?” I asked Tommy.“Not far,” he smiled. “Told ya.”At 2:30, I dashed away from school and hopped in the front seat of Mama’s turquoise Chevy Bel Air. “It’s snowing in Vicksburg!” I shouted.“It can’t be,” she answered. “It’s not cold enough.”“But look at the sky,” I pleaded.“We’ll watch Bob Neblett tonight and see what he says.” A sensible compromise.After sampling an umm umm good bowl of Seale Lily peach ice cream, Bob shattered my dreams. “Lotsa rain tomorrow folks. Too bad it’s not cold enough to snow.” Mama was relieved; I hung on hopefully and prayed that somehow God would intervene. Granted he’d never transformed a misspelled Anartica into Antarctica or made 8×7 equal 57, but weather seemed to be one of his specialties. Just before dawn, I heard pounding rain. and prepared for a damp day at Power School when we’d have square dancing lessons on the auditorium stage instead of outside games. My head hung low, but I buckled up for a do-si-do and allemande left!Midmorning, a miracle occurred. I saw it coming when Miss Williams stopped talking about the capital of Peru and put on her sweater. The wind fell away and a soft silence replaced the patter of raindrops. Fingers of frigid air touched the windows, glazing them with frost. Something was happening, everyone felt it. We watched mesmerized, as blue grey clouds covered the school like a patchwork quilt. Finally, our teacher said, “If you’ll all be quiet, we’ll move over to the windows. I think it’s snowing.” We were out of our desks in a flash, watching like hypnotized rabbits as tiny snowflakes began to fall, floating like feathers through the tall pine trees bordering out playground. No one spoke. Finally, our wonderful Miss Williams said, “Get your coats from the cloakroom, we’re going outside.It was a magical day. Even though there wasn’t much snow, we whirled and danced. Tommy and his pals managed to toss a few snowballs. I simply held out my hands and let snowflakes touch my fingers. When the clouds parted, the sun came out and our snow day was over in an instant. We returned to our classroom, wet but happy. That day personified autumn in Mississippi, short, sweet, and gone in a flash. It’s a welcome respite from the dregs of summer and a reminder that there really are four seasons, even in the south. It won’t last long, so let’s dance while the dancin’s good, enjoy the crunch, crunch of falling leaves, and celebrate the blessing of crisp, cool air – if only for a moment.

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