Autumn is a Time to Grow Strong

Mike Paulus, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Ferguson's Morningside Orchard
Ferguson's Morningside Orchard

One October night a few a years ago, after weeks of spooky storybooks and scary Halloween movies, my son asked me if monsters were a real thing. I said, “Well, I’ve never seen one. What do you think?”

He paused, then said, “No.” He didn’t think monsters were real. But he said it quietly, like he wasn’t so sure. He knew the answer should be “no,” but simply knowing this didn’t make him feel any less anxious about bumps in the night. Knowing the truth of something doesn’t always take the fear away. He was being brave like the kids in those books and movies, solving the mysteries and saving their friends.

Yet later that night, when he woke up from a bad dream, he asked me to keep him company. So I sat there, hunched up on the foot of his bed, struggling to stay awake. I sat there, keeping watch, until my son’s gentle breath found a nice, deep rhythm and his eyes fluttered shut. I sat there, thinking about monsters.

My son wasn’t talking about wild animals or mean people or difficult decisions. He meant zombies and witches and werewolves, which is fine by me. He’ll have plenty of time in his life to deal with practical, everyday monsters. I just hope it’s not too often. And I hope he gets through those situations without too much turmoil and heartache.

Here we are in my favorite season. Autumn in Wisconsin is crisp and cool and beautiful. It’s a reminder to me of how lucky I am, and it’s a good time to reflect on stuff. Fall is a busy season: the school year cranks into high gear, we get busy, and the daylight hours shrink away. It’s easy to get distracted and miss the deep red leaves, the golden sunlight, and the sharp, glittering stars at night. But we need to see these things. We need to show them to our kids.

These happy little things can fill them up, and the desire to share that happiness can give our kids some guidance. And it’s my sincerest hope that a childhood spent collecting beautiful ideas will strengthen and prepare them for times of worry – times when monsters both real and imaginary appear before them.

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