As a young whippersnapper, I was loathe to acknowledge the existence of any other season apart from summer. Autumn meant Easter and, for many years, a family holiday in NSW’s chilly, beautiful highlands, at an eccentric, rickety old hotel through which packs of kids roamed while the parents were elsewhere. Some of the trees in the garden turned red, and after a long hot summer, a drop in temperatures was often welcome for a week or two. Winter, all two months of it in Sydney, and most of it blue-skied, was for hibernation and the reluctant wearing of a jacket, but only at my mother’s prompting. Some of the trees in the garden lost their leaves and in July, there was often a lovely frost on the grass in the early morning. Most nights were cold enough for socks around the house, and for Dad to light a fire, a task he took immeasurable pride in. We wore stockings at school as part of our winter uniform, and I hated them. Still do. Spring meant one thing; summer was on its way. And summer, well it stretched for months of blazing sun and thunderstorms and bare feet. And Christmas. Summer always meant Christmas.
Most of what I knew about seasons in other hemisphere, I gleaned from books. Squirrels and hibernation and the blessed relief of Spring were for Enid Blyton books, and white Christmasses for American movies. I didn’t understand the joy of Spring, because, while Spring in Sydney is certainly beautiful – everything is – it doesn’t come off the back of months of zero degrees and minimal sunlight and slippery, icy streets. Months of heavy winter coats and thick wool scarves and hats. You don’t earn Spring in Sydney, it simply rolls around and you sigh and think ‘what a gorgeous morning’. I remember the first time I really, really understood how joyous Spring really is. It wasn’t my first Spring after my first Winter in Münster – although I was so sick for most of that cold, snowy Winter, and then sick again when Spring rolled round, I booked a flight to Santorini before the buds were barely blooming – no, it was my first Spring down in Bavaria. The Winter had been a shocker. Down to -25 on some nights. A friend was visiting and we were quite certain we would not make it through our Nürnberg visit. As Spring broke through after that Winter, I remember sitting in a park watching bees and feeling like I had survived something. Like the weak sun that was filtering through wispy clouds and warming the longer days was a fully deserved prize. (I booked a ticket back home that Spring. Homesickness, cold, uncertainty over a German future, it all drove me back to Sydney and I landed in July. For ten days after I arrived, the sun shone each and every day, and I recall thinking ‘why did I ever leave a country that calls this Winter?’.)
Heading into my fifth Winter here, I have come to appreciate seasons and their charms. I like the red leaves and hot drinks and pumpkin soups of Autumn. Spring is completely, utterly beautiful, this wave of hope that rolls through when your spirit is inches from breaking. Summer with its pleasant temperatures and long, long days is to be sucked up and marinated in, because it seems to disappear in the blink of an eye. Winter is still a shocker and far too long, but at least it brings Christmas and Glühwein and you don’t feel guilty about lying on the couch underneath a quilt binge-watching TV for months on end. So that’s a bonus.
The seasons are changing right now. It isn’t quite Autumn and yet Summer hasn’t entirely gone. It is a lovely, golden in-between. In-between seasons are imbued with the most wonderful sense of anticipation. Even though a little part of me still expects, and always will expect, Easter to be around the corner, I have been Eingedeutscht enough to begin associating cooler weather with Christmas and gemütlichkeit. So right now, this sense of anticipating I can feel smells mostly like Christmas markets and nights in with hot drinks. Most days are around 18 or 19, and sunny. Some mornings are brilliant and then dissolve into rainy afternoons and somedays do the precise opposite. I am yet to put on a boot, but there has been occasion for a pashmina. I am happy for Autumn to take its time, despite it being so beautiful. I can deal with canvas shoes and not wrestling die Lüdde into thirty-seven layers every time we leave the house, for at least another month. This suspension between Summer and Autumn can dawdle.