I used to believe that autumn held new beginnings. Seventeen Magazine promised I’d look like Jennifer Connelly if I bought the right corduroy jacket and loafers. My school schedule would open new friendships and a school year where I wasn’t a misfit. Instead of longing for recess to be recess again, I’d understand how to traverse the coquettishness of the girls and their lunging toward the unknown that smelled of sweat and Irish Spring. I believed in it all, year after year, of it not being true.

I’d walk to school, and the crispy leaves that had framed the magazine spreads were, in my reality, sopping layers of soil and yard waste piled like dirty laundry in corners of the sidewalk. The back-to-school outfit goals I’d taped to my walls were always out of reach; my young mind not understanding the number of handlers outside the frame, the pinning of the sweater, and the editing of the models’ faces.

Thirty-five years later, it’s watching the snow melt and understanding how winter hides secrets. The short days and cold air keep us inside, our hurt and anger muffled by the tv. We move slowly behind curtains, backlit, longing for spring, all the while grateful for this time to step away from pretending. We pack away hard pants and lean into comfort, hiding. We burrow beneath blankets, binge shows, and permit ourselves to opt out of dinner and plans of dressing up or being hopeful. It’s too cold; we can do it in the spring. Let’s snuggle in away from it all for a bit longer.

The head of a bristle brush peeks out from melting snow.

The snow is melting, and I used to crank the wheel to get the car to make the circle without scraping against the packed snow; I can ease up. The rhododendron, the bits that have survived the winter grazing by the deer, springs out. I step out of the car, and the snow is spotty; the head of a brush peeks out between roots and the handle, Goody printed in metallic gold, glints in the morning sun. I can’t remember if anyone asked where the brush was. Did we worry about it?

Guess we didn’t give up after all; the brush was a survivor from a harried morning racing to beat the school bell, hair still knotted, but the will to try to break through the snarls and lay flat before the many faces of the day won out.

Even if autumn was a lie, maybe spring is a promise.