As a child growing up in Italy, the starting of the school year was the announcement of autumn’s arrival because we didn’t go back to our classrooms until the end of September. And of course it was time to get our warm clothes out of the closets.
That was the part I hated almost the most because hems had to come down and sleeves needed lengthening. Our clothes were made of wool or cotton, no synthetic anything and there was no such thing as dry cleaners, at least not in our little town so the coats were clean spotted with water and vinegar. I don’t know if the method was effective or not, but to this day the smell of vinegar makes me gag.
And then there was the part of winter I really, really hated—wool stockings—talk about itching. I blame my childhood experiences for refusing to wear pantyhose as a grown up.
Of course not all memories are bad, autumn brought us chestnuts. My brother and the older kids would hike up the mountain to ‘steal’ chestnuts…Actually they would collect what they could find on the ground, the ones no one cared about anyhow. Then my grandmother would roast them for us and we would often scorch our fingers trying to peel the shell off while they were still hot.
There was no Halloween, instead we had the day of the dead and the day of the saints. It all translates to bringing more flowers that usual to the cemetery and then we would get a treat on All Saints day (Ognissanti). To make this interesting the small cookies were called Fave Dei Morti, it literally translates to beans of the dead. The cookies are supposed to look like large beans and the main ingredient is almond. I never made them myself, but I do like to eat them.
Then again, it’s autumn in Phoenix, where the temperature is holding above 100, the sun is shining and the stores are displaying Halloween merchandise and colorful pumpkins. And to visit the loved ones’ graves I’ll have to drive about fifty miles round trip. But, hey, none of my hems need to come down.
Wishing you all a wonderful fall season.