The trees say they’re tired, they bore too much fruit,

Charmed all the wayside, there’s no dispute,

Now shedding leaves, they don’t give a hoot!

La-de-da, de-da-de-dum, ’tis Autumn!

— Henry Nemo

It happens like this. It happens even before the first red leaf drops to the lawn, before the nights cool. I’ll be sleeping. What is that noise? Is it my neighbor’s lawn mower? No. It’s her hair dryer. I remember this; is this how autumn begins, not with a falling red leaf, cooler nights? No, It starts with a hair dryer and then a clatter of dishes in the sink at 6:30, the ones I forgot to put away after dinner. Ah, the sweet peace of summer is over. ‘Tis autumn.

Then the sound of rain. But the sun is on the lawn. Ah yes; It’s the running shower, followed by the smell of linen being ironed, or a slightly burned English muffin. It’s back to school; the streets hum and shimmer with yellow school buses. Summer was fun, but it’s over. It’s the season of She. ‘Tis autumn.

I cover myself with the sheet as it gets worse: a soft purr of grumbling, the pushing and shoving of garments in her closet, then the voice from another room: “Ten minutes, mister,” then “five minutes, mister,” like the countdown to a rocket launching.

Of course, this only happens on mornings when, for one reason or another, I fall out to drive her to school. She hates that, thinks it’s demeaning, being treated like a child. I get that.

Today It’s warm and sunny; she’ll drive herself, allow me to float on my new mattress a few minutes longer. It’ll get worse in November, then December and the rattlesnake month of January, when I won’t let her walk on ice. This has been the movie we’ve starred in for decades. It had a fun beginning, a solid middle, but no closing act. We’re putting off writing that.

All of this, this morning stuff, wasn’t the plan. She was supposed to slow down after her scary “event,” and maybe truly retire, with none of this only-two-classes-a-day business. I’m not surprised. She’s never been one to slip into retirement. She’s not good at gardening, stamp collecting or playing the cello with a group, like her mother. She’s the daughter of a judge. She’s the sister of a lawyer and mother of a lawyer/agent and a fiercely successful businesswoman, both of whom are intensely organized women, just like her, but born and raised in the orange glow of Los Angeles.

Yet here in the soft green light of a Maine morning, where she was born, she still gets up ready to do battle, full of her old energy.

But for me, rising and shining is harder. For me, has no app to tap for power plus energy, especially when the world around me begins to light up with red and gold,. I am soothed by the smell of someone burning leaves in the distance. I know I have to wake up, but it’s Maine, and ’tis autumn, my children, ’tis autumn.

So it begins early, this teaching thing. Her Reny’s alarm clock with the big red numbers isn’t functioning, so I teach her how to set the alarm app on her iPhone. She’s skeptical, but when she gets to pick her own sweet tinkly wakeup tune, she’s thrilled, and I bask in the glow of her admiration for what she thinks is a wonderful trick.

Having exhausted all the tricks I had dazzled her with over the decades, I’m left, at this late stage in our relationship, with few tools in my box with which to impress her; I have to keep abreast of the latest technology. I know her students are light years ahead of me, but she doesn’t know that. It’s Apple spring for them; for me it’s just late summer gamesmanship.

The glow of the iPhone trick eventually faded, and she left me with the list this morning. There’s the bathroom to clean, the kitchen floor to be swept, the guest room to be readied for the second daughter and husband to inhabit tomorrow. What will it be like next autumn, when she has unlimited time? Maybe I can teach her Snapchat?

“Oh, holding you close is really no crime,

Ask the birds, the trees, and Old Father Time,

It’s just to help the mercury climb,

La-de-da, de-da-de-da, ’tis Autumn!”

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. His book, “Will Write for Food,” is a collection of Morning Sentinel columns.

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