They love weather. The changeable sort that we are used to. So the trip to school on the morning after the storm is accompanied by fever pitch excitement. Autumn, it seems, has finally arrived. Strewn debris greets us on our walk. There are whoops at the sight of a parked car – it’s tyres submerged in flood water. They run and skid on the blanket of fresh foliage that has been cast for their delight. There’s a nip in the air. At last. Yes a definite nip.
‘Smell it’ marque 2 says, standing still, breathing deeply in. ‘Just smell the freshness after the storm’.

And so we believe that the summer which has gone on, bewilderingly, for half the year is now over. Time to put the sandals away and whip out the boots. Time to hot-tail it up to T.K. Maxx for a coat. We are ready to welcome the next season. Late is better than not at all. Up in T.K. Maxx everyone else seems to have the same idea. The isles are thronged with merry post-storm knitwear and coat buyers. It’s a dizzying affair and I’m no good at it. Row upon row of quilted coats with fake fur hoods. Where to begin? I stand watching the skilled buyers making their way methodically through, going from left to right, making sure not to miss a hidden bargain. I’m in the way, hovering, wondering if I could borrow one of them for a minute to dig me out. Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, the coat hangers go all around me, mockingly, to the deft hands of the discerning clever purchasers. I scowl around the myriad colours and styles and sizes all mixed up. Can somebody just help me please?

I know I can’t leave without something. You don’t make a trip up here and leave empty handed. I check the time. Getting close to the first pick up. A quick call to see if he is in the area and if there’s any way he could do the collection. Yes, sure, and this should make me feel better, having that extra half hour. But I’m starting to feel that my knees are going to cave. I’m going to keel over, right here in the centre of the store. And then I’ll probably be trampled on.

So I retreat from being a nuisance in the narrow isles to a corner where there’s a free standing display of fresh arrivals. Room to swing things. Mirrors. Air. I can do this. The first coat I pluck from the stand fits perfectly. It’s by a designer I’ve never heard of but hey, that’s probably good. Then there’s another woman who comes over and smiles at me, says she loves the coat and nabs one for herself. We are side by side taking turns in the mirror, looking very much the competent calm T.K. Maxx purchasers. She twinkles at me and thanks me for alerting her to these. This has made her day. Maybe she was sent to help me I think, in some other worldly way. Or maybe the CCTV cameras picked up the exasperated immobile mess in the centre isle and sent an undercover staff member to cheer me along. Pretend the coat was lovely, get one for herself, and hoosh me right out of the store.

As I exit with the autumn-winter purchase I am blinded by the sun. It’s sweltering again. For feck’s sake, all the newly found competence draining out of me as I think about hurling the boots to the back of the cupboard, retrieving the sandals and waiting for this Indian summer to finally cough itself to sleep.

At night, with all the homework almost done, I announce that we are going for a walk. They look at me quizzically as I pull the purchase from the bag. Mutterings of ‘great new coat mum’ resound and I smile.
‘Just something I nabbed for the cold weather’.
‘It looks so, so posh’ marque 4 says giggling. Posh – the unintended consequence of a panic buy.
‘I don’t think we need to bring our coats, do we? It was ROASTING today’.
As you please, dear children, as you please.

Mercifully a soft drizzle descends and I whip up my hood, feeling decidedly less ridiculous now. They run ahead, coat-less arms outstretched, welcoming the change, while imbibing the smell of seaweed that has been thrown onto the path in last night’s storm. A harvest moon sparkles and winks at us on the sea. Embrace the changes as they present themselves, much like the kids do, he seems to be saying. Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s what he means.


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