It's autumn, "delicious autumn," as the writer George Eliot called it, adding "if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."
I don't know about that, since I tend to get a hankering for a new season when I've been bombarded by one a little too long, but for now I'm drinking in that delicious taste of autumn. Cable sweaters have abandoned the closet, wood smoke lingers in the crisp air, hot tea makes sense again. And of course you couldn't have fall without football.
Some people may be surprised to hear that Aunt Ida Mae is a football fan. It's true I don't know a Titan from a Viking, and I don't care a flip about the hyped-up stuff you see on TV. But I love my local Friday night football game. Why, I've been a Nubbins High School Nuggets fan since I was a student there myself, and you can bet I'm not going to say how long ago that was.
There's something comforting about sitting under those stadium lights glittering against a backdrop of purple dusk, surrounded by a fired-up crowd of people all cheering for the same thing. Sometimes it seems like two-thirds of the town is at the game, along with a scattering of people who have moved away but are back for a visit. The salty and sugary food is pretty fun too, along with the cheering, the socializing, and watching the game unfold. I do get into the spirit of the competition, but I'm not one of those people who yells angry taunts at the referee or the other team if things aren't going well for the Nuggets. I'd just as soon those folks were tied to a goalpost and taught a lesson or two.
But as much as I enjoy the game, my real love is the marching band. I didn't play in the band when I went to Nubbins High School, being born with a bit of a tin-ear. But I was secretly jealous of what seemed like an exclusive club of ready-made friends. I was particularly interested in one of the drummers, Bishop Miller. I'd never heard of anyone named Bishop before, a name that seemed lofty and sophisticated to a skinny girl named Ida Mae. His band uniform, complete with gold cord and plumed hat, only made him more exciting. He was a year older than I and didn't seem aware of my existence. But I couldn't take my eyes off him each fall Friday night as he managed to march backward, forward, and every which way but up without missing a beat of the band's rousing rendition of a John Philip Sousa tune.
I don't know what happened to Bishop Miller, but I think of him every time I watch the Nubbins High School Marching Band perform. It sends me back to my high school days. Maybe that's the real draw of a local football game - all that youthful energy hovering 'round the stadium like a cloud: the cheerleaders with their skimpy outfits and matching hair bows, the rough and tumble players itching to be put in the game, the band members belting out the school song, the high school students wandering around pretending to pay attention to the game when actually they're hoping for a kiss behind the snack stand.
For the most part, the rest of us don't wear skimpy outfits or band uniforms anymore or play much football without being pretty sore the next day. But it's exciting to be around those who are. We've known these young people since their diaper days, and now it's up to us to support their achievements, set them straight if they're headed out of line, and cheer them on as we watch them go. We're just the fans, but that's an important job I take seriously.
Of course, that doesn't mean when I'm shouting "Come on all you Nubbins fans, let me hear you clap your hands!" I'm not keeping one eye out for Bishop Miller.