Growing up, we had a closet full of special decorations that came out for each holiday. It wasn’t Easter until the yellow egg-shaped bowl was filled with sticks and topped with ornaments; Christmas meant a German-style nativity pyramid and my mother’s vintage angel collection. This time of year we opened a box marked “Autumn Splendor.” A combination of indoor autumnal décor and a striking outdoor display of gourds and flowers, autumn splendor decorating started in last days of September and carried through Thanksgiving, when we would begin to plan for Christmas. Although we occasionally purchased new ornaments and trim each year, the bulk of these festive ornaments were pulled from storage boxes each year, carefully stowed away until it was their time to shine again. I can still remember opening the boxes and pulling out the items with my family, each one like a little present from our past—a set of tricolored Indian corn, a hand-stitched turkey sampler, a stuffed scarecrow. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, but having the same items every year helped make each new home feel like home.
I’m spending the week with my mother at her house in Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains, surrounded by the lush countryside, and it feels like autumn splendor is all around me (even though New York City is battling snow already!). And while some of the same decorations I grew up with are here, some have migrated to my own holiday box, and some to my sister’s, as we begin to create our own homes. As the weather turns even chillier, and we all start to think about the holidays (and what we’ll be cooking), I’m taking a minute to remember how much I loved those moments when I was a kid, and to appreciate the beauty of the changing season around me.