I switched on the heater last night. Last weekend, we put away the flip-flops and swimsuits, the shorts and straw hats and found our sweaters in the storage closet. They smell like the cedar blocks I packed them with and were nestled against wintery things I have almost forgotten.
There were pilled mittens, wool socks and the metal traction spikes I clip onto the bottom of my sneakers for when the hill at the dog park is covered with a sheet of ice. I found little hats, boots, and coats and doubted that they would still fit the kids, but I have neither bothered to have them try them on or consider replacing them.
Summer's long days have given way to the early nights of autumn. The leaves haven't quite changed yet, though they're beginning to. The landscape is less verdant than it was just a week ago. Neighbors have decorated their front steps with chrysanthemums and pumpkins and the children are planning their Halloween costumes. It's cool enough to turn on the oven and to bake something pleasant.
"Is it pumpkin cake season again?" My daughter asked last night recalling a series of cakes I baked last year.
The pumpkin cake run began when I received an adorable cook book from a friend. Its pages were die-cut with scalloped edges. I only baked a few of the cakes in, Miette: Recipes from San Franscisco's Most Charming Pastry Shop. However, I must have made the pumpkin cake six times in October alone.
The first time I made it, it filled the house with a lovely spicy autumnal scent. We had thick, warm slices after dinner. The next morning, the kids begged for it for breakfast. I packed it for their snack at school for days. I'll admit it, I felt like I was buying their love a little bit. The following week, I made another. I took a cake to a friend's house in the Berkshires one weekend, and shared one at a dinner party. I stockpiled cans of pumpkin. (The recipe calls for either homemade pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin, and having had mixed results with making my own pumpkin puree and being somewhat lazy, I opted for canned.) I had to replace my cinnamon. It wasn't long before I had memorized the recipe.
Autumn seems like a time to focus on work and goals and all the projects that I have put off over the pleasant summer months. The kids tend to be busier as their homework increases. It's time to come back inside. Somehow, warming the kitchen with the pumpkin cake made the transition easier.
I like to bake. It's so pleasantly tangible. When you follow the recipe, you get predictable results. So much in life is out of our control. But, I can consistently manage pumpkin cake. While our minds are filled with aspirations and questions and the concerns and obligations of ordinary life, there is something pleasant about being able to sit down with a warm cup of tea and a slice of cake and remember the pleasures of being right here, right now together.
Krista Richards Mann is a Westport writer, and her "Well Intended" column appears every other Friday. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.