There are several things I have in common with my aunt Pattye. A love of musical theatre. A hatred of double spaces after periods.
Like me, Pattye graduated college with a communication degree and worked for several years as a reporter and then editor at the Starkville Daily News and Daily Times Leader in West Point, Miss.
You might think she inspired me to become a journalist, but I’m afraid I’m far too independent for that. And while she was heavy handed when trying to convince us to attend Mississippi State, where she now works, Pattye never pressured my sisters or me when it came to our field of study.
Earlier this year, my mom gave me a binder full of columns Pattye wrote during her journalism days. I’ve treasured reading through them, and as I’ve embarked on my own journalism career, they’ve become another tether between my aunt and me.
Some of the columns really show their age — a series of columns about the O.J. Simpson trial, for example — but others could have been written today. Some tackle important topics: child abuse, teacher pay and racism in the criminal justice system. But most are just sweet stories about her friends and family.
There are at least three stories about holiday decoration mishaps. “Here’s to balloons and happy endings” recounts the story of my parents’ wedding day. One column is titled “The stork is headed to Nashville” (Spoiler alert: The stork was bringing a baby girl named Carson).
Pattye has been on my mind this week because another thing we have in common is a love of cold weather. She’s often professed a dream of waving the muggy South goodbye and setting up shop in Maine. While the weather would suit her, I don’t think she’d handle the absence of college football and her family too well.
I realize how temperamental the Southern climate can be, and by merely mentioning the weather I run the risk that the air will be hot and humid by the time this is published.
But I’m hoping that the atmosphere finally got the message (several weeks too late according to my calendar) that summer is over and crisp, autumn air is here to stay.
So before I sat down and wrote an ode to the arrival fall, I took to the binder to see if Pattye had ever opined about the joy of the season. My hunch was correct. As a young journalist Pattye wanted the world to take notice of the cool weather as much as I do now.
“The temperatures lately have been close to perfect as they could be and the bright, sunny days and clear, star-filled nights have been truly amazing,” she wrote one October.
She made note of the Halloween decorations being put up. Her description of the stores in downtown West Point reminds me of the scarecrows that I drive by each day in Alpharetta.
“Signs of the trick-or-treat holiday are evident throughout the city and county. There are ghosts and witches, ghouls and goblins and of course pumpkins and Jack-O-Lanterns galore.”
Like me, the change of season inspired her to think back on where she came from and the people who made her who she is. One year she shares memories from her college years; another year she writes about going home to Alabama.
“I’m not sure if it is the cooler weather; fond memories of high school football games; the beautiful color of autumn leaves; or the sound of those fallen leaves as you walk through them — but something in the air says ’slow down,’” she wrote.
So from Pattye and me, take time this week to enjoy the fall weather, think of your loved ones and slow down.