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The Scent of Autumn

by H. Clark (St. Paul School, Saigon)

The busy summer growing season is over, but there still is work to be done. On this very day, the tulip bulbs arrived at my local nursery. My focus switched from my summer crop to getting bulbs in the ground. Farewell to the ephemeral joy of summer.

Autumn has arrived. For me personally, I give thanks for life, for I was born in autumn. Last night, a severe wind storm knocked my huge 12-ft tall bougainvillea vine to the ground. It was quite a daunting chore to re-stake and re-secure it so it can withstand the next storm, because its branches are thorny. They would catch your clothes, and even rip through your protective gloves. I can sense autumn is all around me; the scent of the richly earth after the first rain fall reminds me of home in Saigon, and the wonderful scent of home cooking and spices filled the cool, crisp air.

After the storm, the air is calm, the fog rolls in everywhere, around the trees, the hills, and all over the city. It seems the calmer the air, the lower the fog. It rolls in like a spooky movie, which reduces visibility to less than half a mile, and lasts until sunrise. San Francisco Bay Area is sometimes referred to as “naturally air conditioned.” As night falls and inland areas cool down, the winds usually decrease, but the fog and clouds remain wherever they have blown in until the following morning when the cycle repeats. All the deciduous tree leaves gradually turned color from green, became red, yellow, and then brown, and started to fall profusely, as if they have fallen in love with the earth.

The chilly touch of cold breeze in the morning and evening is enough to make you wrap up little warmer going to and leaving work every day. It’s this season we most enjoy the sunny sky during the day, the magnificent scenery of the sunset and the crimson colored clouds. It’s time to bring out my knitting needles and yarn to knit more scarfs, hats, and gloves, ready for winter. It is also time for giving thanks for family and the few friends I have good fortune to have met for each of them hold a special place in my heart.

Like many of my friends, this weekend I will be dressing up as someone I am not. Halloween, after all, is the time of year we can dress up to be someone else, look foolish, and have fun. I have been thinking about my costume for weeks.

OK, so I am not really going to a party, but my imagination is crazy during this season! However, I am sure this was something most of you are going through.

Halloween means the start of a party season until New Year’s. Many of us, including me, will be in the party mode more in these two months than we do during the year, so just relax, do some entertaining as you must, informally. There is no need to cook for days in order to entertain. Sure, you can burn a casserole dish, or two, even spill wine at dinner in front of special guests, or set the tablecloth afire. Your friends and family will enjoy the festivities all the same. All will be OK!

20 comments to The Scent of Autumn

  • Kevin L. Wells

    Huong,

    Although I have never set the table cloth on fire, I have had the cat try to steal a 15 pound turkey. He darn near had it to the edge of the counter and on its way to his closet sleeping spot when I stopped the theft in progress.

    I never told the gusts, what they did not know did not hurt me!

    That is my story and I am ticking to it!

    KLW

  • Autumn Scent

    Kevin,

    That cat would be me! I confessed today and it set me free.

    Huong

  • H. Clark

    Kevin,

    That cat would be me! I confessed today for all the bad things I did and that set me free.

    (I signed on as Autumn Scent. I think it does not recognize me, and while it’s thinking, I am resending. It’s not even Halloween yet and I already broke things).

    Huong

  • frank

    I used to like the spring the most. “Fall” is now my favorite. I suppose it is because there is normally less wind this time of year! We will be going to a party this Saturday (in three days) and we will arrive on time, even if it means we’ll drive around the block a few times. We will leave early however!

  • frank

    Oh! By the Way! In forty one minutes, Suzy Q and I will have been together for 42 Years. We got married at Frankie and Tom’s house (her brother and sister-in-law) in Mill Town, just outside of Missoula, Montana. That evening in 1971 was the first major snow storm of the winter. One of those kinda snows that drifted down in big flakes. The type that made you run around with your tongue out in order for the snow to land gently on it! It is a feel good moment!

    • H. Clark

      Frank,

      Congratulations to you and Suzie Q. Forty-two years! And many more years together!

      We got married in between two major snow storms in December. It was so cold that morning the car wouldn’t start. We thought we were going to be late, but it finally did, at the nick of time.

      Huong

  • frank

    Halloween was my sister Jane’s favorite holiday. She loved to dress up. Every Halloween I think of her.
    My own personal favorite memories of Halloween are two. Taking my kids up the streets and stairs in Butte , Montana trick or treating and me and my wife doing the same at the Officer Housing at Herzo Base, Germany, with “shot” glasses in our hand.

    • Kevin L. Wells

      Frank,

      You are doing it all wrong!

      Stay at home and when the goblins show up with the mothers, ignore the kids and chase the mothers.

      This is much more fun and mothers, being slower than kids, are easier to catch!

      Heh, heh, heh.

      Kevin

  • Kenneth R. Yeager

    Halloween is not a big thing here in Germany, perhaps because there was and is little American influence following WWII. This was the British sector. Nonetheless, there are a few kids that dress up and go out Trick or Treating, and we, being patriotic US citizens, are prepared for the onslaught, should it happen.
    I carved my first ever pumpkin is year and hope that the children will see it and recognize that this house is open for Trick or Treaters. Thank you YouTube for lessons on how to carve a pumpkin as I really had no idea of what one needed to do. Actually, it was pretty easy and fun as well.
    Happy Halloween to all of the SKs, where ever in the world you may be.

  • Frank

    Ken and Kevin, Do you mind if I call you the “DOS Amigos”? In Mexico they will soon have the day of the dead. I am sure we are far from that, I hope!!!! What I really want to say, is that I savor every word you two guys write. I have always struggled with our language. I know it is because I hear something, but the translation comes out different when I try to say it or write it. I assume that today is is some disease, but when I was in school it was called dump. Believe me, I have compensated in many ways in order to cover up this problem. I can not fully explain. In College I had to try harder than others. My reports took longer to do. When I was a Military Officer, I spent many mid-night hours writing the General’s speeches . When I taught, everything was written out on the chalk board before class started…But please.. you guys and the folks that pretend they struggle with presenting their thoughts , keep it up. By the way, I am a little disappointed at the Saigon Kids that read this “Blog”, but do not add to it.
    I would very much like it if, for whatever reason you wish to not respond, to get over it and respond! Most of you had the “Best Years of Your Life” (That is almost the title to one of my favorite movies of 1945-46). Are you afraid you will say something wrong? Do you really want to see old friends? Is something wrong? I have such wonderful thoughts about my days in Saigon, but sometimes I feel like I’m the only one! I have written on this blog when I have been sober and drunk! Guess what I am right now!
    I beg you to be proactive, …. or just quit! I know that Roy, Sarah, Mimi and even my buddy Arlene would come around if there was a just a little hint that you think we should all get together before we die!

    • Kevin L. Wells

      Frank,

      From 1/2 of Dos Amigos, thank you for your vote of confidence. I also think the lurkers should get with the program and write their adventure/life story/or spectacular trip and send it in.

      Huong Clark has shown us how to do this also. I don’t know about most of the readers here but I can tell you she is working on more.

      So what is the big holdup?

      Sure, many of us are still working. Many of us may not have written much since school apart from memo after memo at work or the occasional email or Christmas card, but read what is written here and if it does not set off connections, you were not paying attention.

      Here is a teaser for you (and I have not yet followed up to get the name) but what Saigon Kid was my cousin Betsy’s roommate at University of Main? That little tidbit turned up in a roommate discussion her freshman year. There are intersections of which we have no clue because people are holding back.

      Frank, you are not the only one with strong memories, all we need to do is GET BUSY!!!

      My $.02.

      KLW

  • Frank

    I get “b” and “p” mixed up I get “c” and “g” mixed up. Bear (not bare) with me! Your friend, Frank

  • Frank

    Kevin, Please do not think I am being “righteous”. I just want want all of us to get in “gear”. Yes, I left mt cousin out, but that is only because I know she will show up!

    • Kevin L. Wells

      Frank,

      The “righteous” thought never crossed my mind.

      We have only two types of writers here, those who do (like you) and those who don’t (yet).

      I doubt that I have a Pulitzer in my future and if anyone has that aspiration, go for it!

      I just like to read about how things turned out for everybody and I remember people missing from this conversation all the time.

      Could I be the only one who things “What ever happened to …..”

      KLW

  • Frank

    In 1978 we were living in Germany. We went to the News Years Party at the O Club. Suzy and Q and I, back then (party animals), danced the night away. After the part was over, we went out to our car to drive the 12.5 kilometers to our home out by the lake. We had a 57 VW coupe.. ah yes the last VW with the little round window in the back and flippers for turn signals (oh yea, wish I had it now). The one door lock was frozen. I had a hot cup of coffee so I poured in on the frozen handle. It did the trick. We drove home that night with no problem. The “Generals New Year’s Reception” was the next day. The only time I have ever been late was when we went out New Years Day and there was a big brown icicle around the car latch!

  • Kenneth R. Yeager

    A brief follow up to my earlier post.

    The little ones (and not so little) began showing up at about 1730 as it was pretty dark by then. Our candle-lit pumpkin and hanging witch puppet under the front door light did the trick. I think we had a total of 12-14 kids all total, mostly in groups and I was pleased to see that the smallest ones had older brothers/sisters and or parents along. As I said previously, Halloween is not a big thing here but for us, it was a successful evening. We shut it down about 2000 (8 PM for you civilians) and seems to suffer no tricks for the evening.

    Re problems in writing (@ Frank), I have never been diagnosed with dyslexia but I am quite sure I suffer a mild form of it as I tend to mix up numbers AND learning the different sounds to letters in German (an “A” is an “AH”, an “I” is an “E” and stuff like that. If anyone were to think I have any writing skills, I would have to credit my work in the Foreign Service as writing telegrams, reports and memos was part of my job and believe me, I suffered trying to get things right. Many drafts were bounced by my bosses until I got them right, but several of them really encouraged me. One told me that no one can express the thoughts you have like you yourself so do the best you can. I found that strong encouragement. On the other hand, many bosses, I think, just like to mess with your head when they bounce drafts. I do admit, however, I do most of my writing when sober……LOL. I really think a big problem of mine, especially with the use of computers for typing, is that at times my fingers go faster than my brain. Hence, overlooked errors. I admit to no talents except I can type damn fast.

    OK, back to my Kindle and iPad. Ya’ll have a good day.

  • Suellen Oliver Campbell

    To all~ I so enjoy reading your letters and comments. Please keep them coming. Like many of you I have written a few memories, but am lacking confidence they are any good. Still I try, and I enjoy recalling those Saigon memories. If they are just for me, it still gives me pleasure to think of the 2 years I spent in VietNam and the friendships I made in those long-ago days.
    When time permits I will give it another try. In the meantime, have a happy holiday season…as Houng said, it has started now that Halloween is celebrated. I love this time of the year, the cooler Fall days, falling leaves, the memories of pasttimes,and the food associated with these months….pumpkin pie among my favs. Best to all.
    Suellen

  • H. Clark

    Dear Suellen,

    I am like you, I find it very difficult to put thoughts onto paper so I took small steps. I don’t have confidence that what I wrote are any good, either. But fear not, you have your SK friends behind you. After so many years since you left Saigon, you are now re-connected with your ACS friends and what a better time to tell them of your experiences. I didn’t attend ACS, but my roots are in Saigon. However, part of our youth were left there, in my homeland, where you made memories in every step you took.

    There are plenty of memories in growing up there than I could write, so I followed Bob’s, Bruce’s, Frank’s, Ken’s, and Kevin’s footsteps. Bob gave me the best encouragement when he said: “write like you are talking to your best friends” and this seems to help me. Kevin has been very supportive, he is special, and how I wish I could have the ability to add a little humor in my writing as he could convey in his writings, but each of us is different.

    The song Yesterday, the Beattles, is one of my favorites. I like it so much that even self-taught how to play it on a piano. I no longer can play piano, but I must have practiced that song hundreds of times and love the words …Oh yesterday came suddenly!… These words are more meaningful to me now that I’m older.

    I’ve read and like your “Before Saigon” experience and you never know that I have had my fair share of the “moving orders” my father had. Looking back, it seemed our family moved every three years, but then we gained so much more memories and had amazing experiences in a strange new land, as you have so noted, than any other kids.

    That said, please share your experiences… we are like on pins and needles waiting for you to tell us more…

    Huong

  • Frank

    Every time I write, I wish I hadn’t. Then I read all of your comments, and I feel better.

  • H. Clark

    Frank.

    I can see where you got “b” and “p” mixed up, but I miss seeing where the “c” and “g” got mixed up. Maybe there is something wrong with my eyesight. It’s tricky to type these quotation marks with just a letter in between them. Your dexterity is remarkable, so what you are talking about? I have to read and reread things to ensure I understand what I read.

    In any event, there is nothing wrong with your speaking your mind, because you are “frank” and a propos. And you have many friends.

    Huong

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