With my friends Desiree, Erin and Dayna; October 2001

October always makes me think of changing leaves, bonfires, and football games-- and gives me a fresh perspective on my current surroundings and what lies ahead.

The feeling I associate with this time of year is pretty uniquely rooted to where I grew up. The image above is from the beginning of my senior year of high school-- exactly 8 years ago this month. Enough time has passed now that this picture makes me smile, rather than blush.

In my hometown in Western Pennsylvania, where football is king, Homecoming was always a huge deal. On Friday afternoon, the eight girls on Homecoming court donned gowns and rode on the back of convertibles as part of a big parade throughout town. Then, we all changed into hats and suits (I'm not sure where exactly that dress code came from) and went out together to a group dinner with one of our dates (each girl chose a football player and a 'civilian' to escort her to the various festivities.) We ended the night by cheering on the team at the football game.  And, of course, there were tons of fun things that everyone did in the "Spirit Week" leading up to Friday's game and the dance on Saturday night.

I know the whole thing can sound really cheesy and old fashioned, and of course I have fantastic memories from the autumns I've spent in New York City and San Francisco, but participating in those traditions was so exciting in a very singular way. I've only recently realized that not everyone gets to feel such a strong sense of being a part of a larger community when they're growing up-- or ever.

We might not get many changing leaves in coastal California, but come October I can still smell a crispness in the air that spurs a shift in my outlook.  And to this day, the optimistic feeling I get in the fall comes just in time.

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