The chestnuts are back, the chestnuts are back!


Actually, they've been back for a few weeks now. Living in a new neighborhood, we don't have a chestnut man like last year, but chestnut ladies. And even though I buy the chestnuts for some reason having to do with books I read as a child, what we really love are the roasted sweet potatoes. Here where fall means temperatures that are still in the 70's and even 80's, where the leaves stay green and no one has a front porch to decorate with a pumpkin or corn stalks, it's nice to have at least one thing that smells autumnal and traditional to me, even if the tradition is only a year old.

I have to admit that at this time of year, when all my friends' family photos have pictures of kids visiting pumpkin patches and picking apples, kicking up leaves and pulling out sweaters and hats, I catch my breath with nolstalgia and longing, wishing to give those experiences to Finn. I've been surprised many times since becoming a mother how strong is the desire to recreate my own childhood experiences--is this just a desire to relive my own life? Or is it wanting to enact the motherhood I witnessed and thus imagined for myself?

It's not like experiencing autumn is important in a moral or character-building sense, like passing on our faith or other traditions. Moreover, we know that Finn is young, and has many, many pumpkins and apples in his future. But we have learned over and over in the last year how deeply we have been formed by our midwestern American upbringing, and in that upbringing, October = fall = leaves, pumpkins and apples. It just feels right.

Living in Hong Kong has taught us other things, though, too. It's taught us how similar you can be to someone from an entirely different background. It's taught us how much we can enjoy and take on new traditions, and helped me understand how a person might take great joy and comfort in celebrating a (religious to me) holiday like Christmas or Easter with no religious beliefs involved whatsoever. I have even felt grateful (and a tiny bit smug) a time or two when we've heard about snow in Minnesota or Vermont and our plans for the day included the beach. New things can become normal surprisingly quickly.

So our "new normal" today included a Halloween spent at the beach, enjoying sand and water (and a nap!); a romp in the green-leaved and profusely-blooming park; toasted nori and roasted sweet potato with Finn's dinner; and date night at a tempura bar (in a mall's food court, no less!) .... Not a bad normal at all.

beach nap

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