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Prime Time | Alice Collins: October or ‘Soxtober,’ a memorable month

Her birthday was on the sixth of October. As a child, she merged the date and the month and came up with

“Soxtober,” which the family adopted as the time for that autumn month.

She was the youngest of a family of six siblings, and her oldest brother became my stepdad when I was a pre-teen and a year older than his youngest sister.

Every Sunday we all gathered for dinner at the family home, and after dinner the women washed dishes, the men sat around in the living room discussing current events and football or basketball results, depending on the season.

Mary and I would climb the long stairway to the second floor of that big, comfortable old house and play with dolls or games.

October was my mother’s favorite month. She was not found of the oppressive northern Illinois summer heat, and in those days few homes had air conditioning. We kids often managed to use the weather as an excuse to go to a movie theater, which was long ahead of private homes in providing that cooled atmosphere.

When I was teaching in the Detroit area, I loved to come home to northern Illinois, where there were many oaks, maples and other trees that were dressed in vivid colors in the cooling days of fall.

Everyone has his or her favorite among the seasons. Though fall has its beauty, it also serves as a reminder that winter is on its way. Over the years, one tends to have differing views of the various times of the year, depending on our age and stage of life. When we were school-age kids, June brought the joyous song “School’s out, school’s out, teachers let the fools out.”  But by late August we were more than ready to go back and reconnect with classmates and friends we had not seen over the summer because they lived in other parts of town and were not part of our summer lives.

During those three months, we were dependent on neighbor kids and visits from families of our parents’ friends. Sometimes that was fun, but other times it involved hosting kids of various ages, some of whom we found boring and annoying. It provided an early lesson in tolerance and hospitality that we learned, but often unwillingly.

Now that Mary and I are nearing 90, we both live some distance from the old home town. Our older family members are long gone, so we have little motivation to make the long trip there. But I will always have good memories of our family gatherings over the years, and I will always think of her in Soxtober.