Dear New England Part III

I spent $90 on socks today.

Not a single pair of socks, mind you. Four pairs of men’s socks and four pairs of women’s socks. But come on. $90?! Yet when fall really gets underway in New England, you start realizing the importance of things like socks (namely wool socks).

You also have long conversations with your significant other about outerwear. And footwear. Because fall in New England is when the white sneakers on the T are replaced by L.L. Bean duck boots. Duck boots, of all things. (They are actually made in Maine, I’ll give you that.) Last fall, you would have shuddered at the thought of spending money on duck boots. Actually, I’m going to go out on a limb and say you didn’t even know what “duck boots” looked like. Lord knows you’d never stepped foot into an L.L. Bean.

A year later, your significant other is customizing his shiny new quackers with flannel laces, and you’re encouraging it.

And that brings me to flannel, my other new favorite topic of conversation.

I went to high school in the ’90s, the heyday of Doc Martens and unbuttoned flannels layered over Pearl Jam T-shirts. I may or may not have borrowed my dad’s Pendleton when trying to impress a guitar-playing boy, but otherwise, you wouldn’t find me caught dead in plaid. Twenty-plus years later, I reluctantly purchased a flannel— just for the sake of apple-picking photos (more on that later) — and I haven’t taken it off since. You see, fall in New England means replacing striped shirts with flannel shirts.

Why am I okay with this? Why do I think my hubby looks hot in his new flannel jammies? WHO AM I?

New England, in seven short months you’ve turned me into the girl who inquires about the “juiciest IPA” on the menu.

I like coffee now — black.

I’m a maple syrup snob.

I wear wellies. Frequently.

Not only do I wake up early on a Sunday morning to drive an hour to pick a pec (yes, this is a legit unit of measurement) of apples in a muddy field, I actually eat said apples. Why? Unless they are baked in a pie, I’ve never liked apples.

New England, you’ve made me into a woman who shells out $24 for two people to navigate a hedge maze, a ridiculous experience that was part Stephen King’s “The Shining” and part Adventure Land on Memorial Day weekend.

I considered ordering a pumpkin-pie ice-cream shake. I didn’t do it, but New England, your charming pumpkin patches and bumpy hayrides made me seriously consider it.

I’ve discovered the wonder that is apple-cider donuts, the fall equivalent of summer’s lobster roll and fried clams. These miracle donuts are covered in cinnamon and sugar and taste like a fall day after a rainstorm has littered the sidewalk with brown and red leaves.

Holy shit, the leaves.

No filter. No joke.
To put it mildly, I’m obsessed. We drive for hours through Massachusetts and New Hampshire and Vermont, and I can’t take my eyes from the car windows, the most ridiculous grin plastered on my face. New England, how is it possible that practically every single tree that sprouts from your storied ground changes colors in October?

In California and Arizona, there were stands of aspens and oaks and maybe a maple sprinkled in here and there. But New England, I swear the needles on your pine trees turn fiery orange. Your ferns change colors. Your shrubs and grasses go gold. I’m pretty sure I spotted purple dirt. You orchestrated this, didn’t you, New England? It must all be part of your grand scheme to turn autumn into an adult’s Disneyland. Who needs Mickey when you have the Kancamagus Highway?

And you know what’s incredible? As cheesy as it might sound to spend weekends picking overpriced apples in Mass or visiting syrup farms in Vermont or leaf peeping in New Hampshire, everyone does it.

These are not activities relegated to tourists or kids or seniors or bachelorette parties or any of the other stereotyped groups you can imagine. We picked apples next to tourists from the Middle East and sorority sisters from Harvard and families whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower (and who have strong opinions on where to find the best apples/fall colors/pumpkin patches/cider donuts). I love the way they embrace their home and history without an ounce of embarrassment. None of this, “Well, you know, the fam is in town so obviously we had to bring them here. If it was up to us, we’d be home on the couch.”

New Englanders know that the changing leaves are way better than a day on the couch. (They also know that, come January, there will be plenty of weekends spent on the couch.)

This afternoon, I walked through my neighborhood after a rainstorm, on my way to the local cider brewery to buy, of course, pumpkin cider. I passed Piers Park. Just a few short weeks ago, it was filled with picnicking families and sailboats. Brides and teens celebrating their quinceañeras vied to have their photos taken with the city skyline behind them. Today, the swings were empty, swaying in the breeze almost forlornly. The grass was scattered with wet leaves, and the tops of the trees were starting to turn yellow. All the picnickers have packed away their baskets for the season. The chill in the air made me finally understand why people wear fingerless gloves.

The sunlight is different here in October. (I know, it’s different everywhere during every season, but this is my first year in Boston, so I get to wax poetic about it. If you want to blog about October’s light in California, send me a link. Otherwise, humor me.) Late-winter’s light was distant, milky, gray, cold. Spring’s light was soft, timid. Summer’s light was heavy and hazy. Autumn’s light is sharp, like a spotlight. Like it’s my last chance to really see my surroundings before it all gets swallowed up by snow.

New England, your seasons fascinate me. Just when I get into the groove of spring’s teasing warmth or summer’s I-don’t-want-to-go-outside humidity, you change things up. It’s hard to get bored by a season when it only lasts for a few months. (Just when I had perfected my beach bug-out bag, you make me tuck it into the back of the closet for nine months.) I already thought the year was going by fast, but when seasons really, truly change every few months, it makes the year seem even shorter.

It’s all going too fast.

Dear New England, I can’t wait until those damn socks arrive.