Over the past week, I’ve been staring at a flower pot on my deck. Not constantly, mind you, as that would be worrisome, but, if I’m honest, I’m out there looking pretty regularly. And each time I do, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

The pot is filled with petunias, snap dragons, a dusty miller and, most importantly, a chrysanthemum I planted last fall that made it through the winter. For the past three months, that mum has been growing steadily and last week, well, last week, it started to bloom. Yesterday, it had one flower the exact color of Thanksgiving. Today, there are three.

To me, it is surefire evidence that fall is here, and I’ve never been happier to usher in a new season. Not just because I like fall in general, but because it means we’ve made it through another big block of pandemic time.

I know I’m not the only one either. On Sunday, I ran into the grocery to buy some hamburger buns, and there was a mom and her daughter at the entrance staring at a cardboard bin full of pumpkins.

“Oooh!” the little girl said.

“I know,” the mom said.

“Can we?”

“Well, we’ll have to soon. It’s that time of year.”

Now, you and I both know that if you buy a pumpkin now, that sucker is going to be pretty squishy by the time you go to carve it in seven weeks. But I’ll bet those pumpkins are flying out of that cardboard bin and into people’s carts. And you know what everyone is thinking: “OK, 2020 pumpkin taken care of. Check mark to that. Better start thinking about my Christmas tree.”

Speaking of of that, do you have any Facebook friends who have posted memes to the effect of, “How early can you start decorating for fall? Asking for a friend.”

I do. I also have a Canadian friend, Graziela, who has already fully decorated her fireplace mantle with a super impressive collection of Halloween décor. We’re talking haunted houses. We’re talking bats. Spiders. Witches. The whole bit. She’s been counting down to Halloween for months now, making the argument that the whole month of September should be considered Halloween eve.

I admit, I am no exception to getting bitten by the autumn décor bug. I own four fake pumpkins that I put on our dining room table every year in a truly useless attempt to pretend I have skill in home decoration. But I’ll tell you, I’ve been thinking about those dumb pumpkins for weeks now, asking myself if I should break up a bale of hay and sprinkle it around the table to create a harvesty look. And outside, what do I do? Do I go full-on foddershock?

I have also been on the hunt for the perfect patio heater for going on eight weeks now. Keep in mind, it’s been 85 humid degrees for the past eight weeks, but that hasn’t kept me from worrying about what we’re going to do in December when it’s chilly. For us, it’s either get a heater and build a fire or not see friends for the winter.

We finally pulled the trigger on one two weeks ago and guess what? It’s backordered until the end of September.

Most of us have spent our whole lives with the warning that we shouldn’t wish our lives away. Turns out, there is an exception to this rule and this year is it. And it also turns out, wishing a year away can actually be kind of fun. For the first time, I’ve stopped worrying about how short life is and started feeling like time passing is actually a sign of progress.

Because we all believe one thing: 2021 has got to be better than this year has been.

Until then, I’m going to keep staring at my chrysanthemum. I may even invite my friend Tina over, who has been talking about chrysanthemums as long as I’ve been talking about patio heaters, and let her stare at it a little while as I stand six feet away.

If 2020 has taught me anything it’s that you have to find joy in the little things.

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