Fall Colors in Oklahoma

Fall leaves in Oklahoma
…I wallowed in the springtime
Now I’m welcoming the fall
For every moment of joy
Every hour of fear
For every winding road that brought me here
For every breath, for every day of living
 
This is my Thanksgiving
 –From Henley and My Thanksgiving

Little Boy on Shore of Lake ThunderbirdYesterday morning, my son Sullivan, 6, had an absolute conniption fit when I told him he had to stop playing Nick, Jr. games on the computer so we could go on an adventure to see fall colors. He acted like a complete ninny, and it distressed me as much as it does any Gen X or Baby Boomer parent trying to get the digital natives of Gen Y and Generation Z to unplug.

To combat the situation, I did what all good mothers of great action do. I threw the computer off the roof; threatened to throw away all the Halloween candy and then planted his butt in the car for an hour long drive to an Oklahoma state park.

“I hate adventures,” Sully said as I backed out of the driveway.

Children traveling in a car with fall colors in the background.

  
Lake Thunderbird State Park 
It was about noon when we arrived at Thunderbird State Park, which is located off Highway 9 East near Norman, Oklahoma. The kids were really excited to discover that the lake’s shoreline was a sandy beach.

Little girl playing in the sand on the beach on a cool fall day.

We attempted to eat our picnic lunch under a tree, but the wind was blowing so hard Bridgette and I were getting whipped in the face with our own hair. We also had sand in our mouths and eyes. Fun! The real comic relief was Sullivan trying to spread out his blanket, “Dottie,” and then jumping on it before the wind could blow it away. Ahhhh, life on the windswept plain.

Fall foliage in Oklahoma

Suffice to say, we postponed our picnic and went for a walk along the shore line. The kids loved climbing up sandy berms and rocks; walking down the ramps to the water and hunting for fall leaves of all colors.

Drawing in the sand on a beach.Hamburgers? 
We eventually unpacked our picnic in the camping area where at least a dozen RVs were parked. Spotting a permanent outdoor grill, Sully asked, “Why didn’t you bring any hamburgers to grill, MOM!?”

I thought about it for a second and then I explained to him that I am a great big loser and shoved a mustard and bologna sandwich in his face.

JUST. KIDDING.

Children playing at Lake Thunderbird

It was wonderful seeing kids out riding their bikes and people relaxing and shooting the breeze amidst all the great fall colors. I’ve been desperate to get away from the house and drink in some of Oklahoma’s fall foliage, even if only for a few hours.

I know that winter is right around the corner, and I absolutely dread the naked army of dark brown trees against the ghost-like sky. Sounds poetic, but it’s really a misery underscored by the pinchy little steps I’ll soon be taking across sheets of ice as I walk the block and a half between my office and the parking garage in downtown Oklahoma City.
  
Is life a vacation for the dead?
The other day, I heard the most awful thing: “Life is a vacation for the dead.” I admit, it made me take pause and even laugh a little. I do think about the words of Li Young Lee quite I often when I consider how quickly the years turn into decades: “Death is always in the background.” 

Red Fall Foliage in Oklahoma

I am aware of this more than I want to be. It’s been nearly 10 years since my father was diagnosed with Pick’s Disease and Alzheimer’s. I used to think I was lucky that I made it to my mid-30s before we had to put him in a nursing home, but now I don’t think I had him nearly long enough, especially when I see couples in their 80s dressed up and going to the ballet together.

Then, there is my oldest daughter, Juliette, 14. In four short years, she went from velvet Christmas dresses with Peter Pan collars and dancing as a soldier in Oklahoma City Ballet’s Nutcracker to the humor of Mao backpacks and high school placement tests. We’ve been busy touring and researching schools as we prepare to make a decision about where she will spend the next four years.

Beautiful fall trees along a road at Lake Thunderbird

I don’t obsess over how quickly she has grown, how fast the clock cycled away from the little bike we decorated for the Fourth of July parade. I wallowed in that springtime and I’m glad I did. It’s just that we don’t create autumn pictures anymore.

We ironed the leaves between two pieces of wax paper, just like I did in Mrs. Pittman’s 3rd grade class. These are the traditions we hand down from generation to generation.

Now, Juliette and I talk about ACT and SAT tests, GPAs and preparing for college. I’m simultaneously trying to ready one child for adventures that won’t really involve me while trying to keep hard candy away from the other two so they keep their baby teeth just a little while longer.

Names drawn in the sand

So, yesterday, Sullivan and Bridgette ran barefoot on a soggy shore in November and tracked a bucket full of sand and fist fulls of leaves into the jeep. I’m less concerned about the mess of exploration than I used to be. Like colored water and glitter in a baby food jar, the reality of our lives is on par with a crudely-made snow globe. Our adventures are largely manufactured, but I’ll take all the fall colors I can get, and fist fulls of prayer.

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