I envy people who can enjoy the moment.
By the moment, I mean right now, halfway through September, when pumpkin spice lattes, yogurt, muffins, pancakes, doughnuts and tea are making their seasonal appearances, along with plastic pumpkins and ghosts, ceramic pumpkins and ghosts and clay chimeneas in pumpkin and ghost shapes.
The leaves are changing, either on trees or in seasonal decor departments, where a person can load up on fake-but-realistic wreaths, garlands, swags, sprays and candle rings. It's all very autumnal and hayride-y for those able to savor every second.
For the rest of us, it's over. Fall is over. Halloween is over. Thanksgiving is behind us, Christmas is a memory, the new year has launched and we're barreling up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, already fretting about getting construction paper hearts in the mail for the grandkids' Valentine's Day.
I can feel you trying to haul me back to the present, hand over hand, like a sailor saving someone who was washed overboard, but don't bother. Sauve qui peut. Some people live in the past; I live in the future. If it's mid-September in the world, I'm thinking about how any moment now, I need to rummage in the closet for the Christmas window candles and head out to chop down a tree.
It's not that I work in advance. If I finished Christmas shopping in July and Christmas wrapping by Aug. 3, I'd see a point to all this. My habit of keeping my eyes on the near-distant horizon and not watching where I'm going right this second is entirely in my head, however.
And because I look ahead, I've missed fall, my favorite time of year. (Yes, I know. Fall is everybody's favorite time of year. It's like having a crush on the most popular boy in school. Fall is gorgeous, fall is friendly, fall smells like pumpkin spice aftershave and I love him so much. It, I mean. I love it so much.)
"Wait," I hear you saying. "You haven't missed fall. It's still here -- corn mazes and pumpkin patches and festivals and hot cider and hay bales on the front porches of million-dollar houses."
I could still take it all in. If I did, I would be thinking, "I need to make a list for Christmas dinner. And start saying '2019,' since it's as good as here."
One year, back in my 30s, I started thinking of myself as a year older so far in advance I believed I was a year older, and when the birthday after that came around, my husband overheard me tell someone my age and had to interrupt with a correction. It was briefly pleasant to know I was an entire year younger than I'd thought I was. Perhaps, when I'm passing on at 100, I'll tell the chaplain at my bedside, "Imagine, I lived to be 100," and the chaplain will say, "What are you talking about? You're only 99."
Speaking of age, you probably think that's what this is: an age thing. A person gets older and time speeds up. The next birthday skids into the heels of the last birthday. Thanksgivings blur. Christmas never ends; it just keeps coming around like the carousel horse with the red and green bridle.
But that explanation is too simple, because I've looked ahead to the next thing all my life. I suspect this has to do with my childhood, which, while not abusive or impoverished, was not entirely happy, either. Children who are comfortable but anxious find refuge in the future -- especially the future of their imagination, which a person can arrange to suit herself.
Also, I have a recurring dream.
In it, friends and relatives are sitting down to a holiday dinner when I realize the turkey is still in the freezer. It's a terrible moment, even for a dream. I suppose that's why I play temporal Twister (Right foot on Thanksgiving! Left hand on April Fools' Day!): to avoid personal embarrassment. Since I haven't forgotten to thaw a turkey, I guess my approach is somewhat successful.
At least, so far.
Write to Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.