By Ken Trainor
I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.
—Anne of Green Gables
Chalkboard outside Gem Boutique on Marion Street
The last Saturday morning of October is one of the year's best. It is the only morning when I can walk outside my front door and find myself in the middle of a parade.
Parents and their costumed cohorts gather around a fire truck, which whoop-whoops as it leads them up Oak Park Avenue toward Lake Street, at which point the marchers double back to do a little trick-or-treating with the street's merchants.
"This is strawberry pineapple," says one proprietress, bending over a future customer and inspecting a sucker wrapper. "I don't think we have coconut."
Over at the Pilgrim Church parking lot, meanwhile, the last Farmers Market of the year lends a certain poignancy to the proceedings — and a certain urgency.
"We'll get donuts," a father explains to his impatient, stroller-bound son. "Donuts are your reward for getting other stuff." They'd better hurry. The line is long and customers are ordering dozens like there's no tomorrow — because there isn't.
A dad walks by with a box of donuts in one hand and pushes a stroller with the other. "Hey, buddy, do you want to stop and see Grandpa?" Oh to live in a town where you can wheel your kid to a market that sells freshly made donuts and where Grandpa lives along the path home.
A 20-something waiting patiently in line explains the donut thing to an older man who's new to all this: "My mom brought me every Saturday when I was growing up. It was a tradition. I don't live here anymore, but I was in town for a few days and felt nostalgic, so I had to come over."
At one of the booths, a vendor advises two senior citizens who stare in disbelief at three gargantuan pumpkins the size of large boulders.
"All you have to do," he says, "is put it in a big burlap sack, then each of you grab a corner and drag it."
Bags are filled with root vegetables, apples, pumpkins, and Brussels sprouts on long stalks. The bounty of the earth parallels the bounty of the womb. Tiny superheroes, princesses, pharaohs and Chinese emperors keep company with young parents and/or grandparents. One woman holds a dragon by the hand and a fireman with the other — firebreather and firefighter, the perfect combo. A horned and helmeted adult foursome navigate the crowded walkway with a stroller retrofitted as a Viking ship, captained by an infant sporting a bright-orange bushy beard that would make the Boston Red Sox blush with envy.
It is chilly but not quite cold, breezy but not quite blustery. In the surrounding neighborhoods, a late-October crop of hydrangeas, that most abundant of flowers, has emerged, and near the corner of Oak Park and Lake in Scoville Park, a new crabapple tree has blossomed a second time, even as the fruit from last spring's blossoms ripen. The sun overhead has tilted far into the southern sky.
It is the twilight of the year. Next Saturday, the clocks fall back and darkness reigns. The year's focus shifts indoors. We are a mere month from Thanksgiving, our official celebration of abundance. But the festivities begin on this Saturday.
Abundance is not about wealth. It is not about acquisition and hoarding, accumulation and possession. It's about appreciating the fullness of life instead of lamenting its scarcity.
There is scarcity, of course, and it needs to be faced, addressed and consoled. The relative abundance of Oak Park and River Forest is sandwiched between the scarcity of Austin and Maywood. Yet Austin and Maywood have their own brand of abundance and we have our own scarcities.
From time to time, I have been guilty of viewing life through the lens of scarcity. My ex-wife and I were plagued by infertility. We suffered two miscarriages and were very lucky to give birth to one son. That kind of thing can affect your view of life if you let it. I let it.
The scarcity lens says life is stingy. There's not enough to go around. Some get the short end of the stick.
Then my daughter-in-law and son gave birth to twins, and now my fellow marketeers on this bright morning are profuse with best wishes. Oh to live in a town where people share your good tidings.
Abundance, if you're not used to looking through that lens, can be overpowering.
The last Saturday in October offers us that lens, made poignant by the knowledge of another winter looming. We live in a world of abundance and a world of scarcity. The glass is half full and half empty. The challenge is finding the balance somehow — so we can keep our balance.
As last Saturdays in October go, however, this one favored abundance.