Weekday mornings at the beginning of autumn evoke a special flavor. The air has a chillier bite, like someone touched it with a leaf of sharp, tingling mint. Skies still dawn clear and blue, but the leaves begin to shed their vibrant green and cover themselves in coats of caramel. A routine of morning commutes to school and work become established. The first days of the season are distinguished: we are anticipatory and excited for the new month or school year ahead, but the monotony of days and days of work have yet to weigh us down.
My morning commute takes me through a park lawn and past a brick-clad school building. When I emerge from my front door, I join a stream of children and parents heading down the block. The feet of the youngest, sheathed in foam-bottomed sneakers, patter down the sidewalk. Chatter drifts past: questions, stories, admonishments from the adults. Alongside, the long strides of older siblings flash past as they race forward to meet the friend or classmate standing at the street corner. Most of them still wear their shorts from the summer, growing limbs exposed to the elements. Clinking pet tags ring against metal buckles on dog leashes, followed by the snuffle of pointed, furry dog noses. Every minute or so, the clatter of bicycle or scooter wheels heralds the passage of a particularly enthusiastic and speedy youngster, crowing in delight. Through all of this, colorful backpacks bob past, accompanying the morning cries and laughter of the little people bearing them.