One of my very earliest memories — perhaps the earliest, so fuzzy around the edges it is — is being outside with my grandad in one of the first crisp days of fall.
In lieu of a jacket, I was wrapped in a blanket like a small, toddler-sized burrito, following him down the hedge-lined backyard path between back porch and the road to their barn. Suddenly, I became aware of movement behind me. I turned to see Lee, the family’s chocolate lab, hurtling happily towards me.
At the time, Lee was firmly in that delightful-destructoid stage of puppyhood all labs go through. They are babies, but have grown suddenly enormous. As an adult, I find this comical, endearing. As a small child, I found it alarming.
As Lee gleefully steamrolled closer, I realized, with horror, that my blanket situation completely incapacitated me. With arms too cocooned for fight and legs too short for flight, I froze in terror. Two seconds later, he made impact, and plunged us both back into the hedge.
I don’t remember my exact reaction, though it’s safe to assume screaming and/or crying was involved. I do remember my grandad laughing as he plucked me from the bushes, though. He told me Lee wasn’t trying to hurt me, he was just excited. He calmed Lee down and sort of forced a reconciliation between the two of us. (This birthed a lifelong friendship, actually. Lee turned out to be the best dog that has ever graced the planet earth, and once I realized that his jumping on me would not, in fact, result in death, I pretty much got on board with the whole idea of him.)
As we stood there scratching Lee’s ears, my grandad informed me the weather was to blame for the hedge incident. When the weather starts to get cold, dogs get playful, he said. The first cold days do that to everybody.
I don’t know why that has so stuck in my mind, but it has. Maybe it’s because, for me, it rings true. The first chill I feel in the air every year fills me with a buzz of frenetic energy, a clarifying shock to the system. My restlessness doubles instantly. I’m a kid again.
In Texas, it takes a while for that chill to ever truly show up. Thanks to a lot of rain in the Dallas area recently, though, we’ve gotten a few tastes of it. Even though I know it’s a tease, I can’t help the thrill it brings.
A couple weeks ago, the temperature sank just low enough and the late-summer sun was just golden enough to fake me into that season-change excitement. I drove up back roads to Grayson County, rolled my windows down, and let myself and my camera pretend that crisp fall weather was just around the corner.