Last week, I found myself doing something that felt really out of place in the month of July: sniffing pumpkin-scented candles.
For clarity, my wife and I were at a store browsing for something to freshen up the house (this wasn’t something I was found doing in the middle of our living room).
She asked if I wanted to go to the store to find something to replace our candle that had burned out, something light and fresh and summery.
“Let’s go check out their selection. I hear they have some fall candles out,” she said with the same look she gives the cat while dangling a bag of treats over its head.
You know you wanna go…
She unfortunately knows she can exploit my love of Halloween and all things fall—even for things as obviously commercial as seasonal, scented holiday candles.
“Already? It’s the middle of July?”
She said she was sure that was the case and wouldn’t you know it, when we got there, an entire kiosk sat adorned with orange and brown and red and yellow leaves.
“It is entirely too early for this,” I said, walking through the door. “Besides, it looks like they just have the same old scents from last year.”
It occurred to me that mid-July seemed earlier than usual to put those items on sale. Not long ago I was watching fireworks on Independence Day and eating hot dogs fresh off the grill and doing other decidedly summer activities.
Although I am partial to the chill of autumn months, we were only partway through July, which means only halfway through summer.
There would still be another full month of 80 or even 90-degree weather in August and at least another month and a half of summer according to the calendar. Not to mention those pesky dog days that return once you’ve gotten a sneak preview of the cooler weather. Then you break out the flannel shirts only to be scorched alive when you step out the door to a still lingering 83 degrees.
I walked over to the candle kiosk, looking down my nose at the gross consumerism on full display. In the back of my mind, I wondered how long before I would start to see pumpkins and black cats replace the three-ring binders and packs of No. 2 pencils in the seasonal section of store shelves. How long would it be until that most controversial of drinks would appear on coffee shop menus: the dreaded pumpkin spice latte.
Why stop there? I’m sure the colored bulbs and Santa Claus hats won’t be far behind that, either. And why not? People eat it up. Why wouldn’t retailers put their autumn decorations on display in July as long as people buy it? We can get excited about that season while we’re still slapping mosquitos off our arms every time we walk out the door. Might as well stuff the shelves full of crap people will stuff their carts with simply because it’s there.
The thought sickened me as I stood there, staring at the mess. I picked up one of the candles to confirm my criticism, cracked open the lid and took a whiff.
Just as I guessed, it was the same old scent as last year. That same old solid orange wax with the same overly doctored photo of golden leaf-littered trails through a perfect October forest. The same mixture of nutmeg and cinnamon, a dash of vanilla, all flirting with the smooth aroma of sharp pumpkin pie spice. It put me in mind of the way the house would smell when I’d come in from raking leaves and mom would have a sheet of freshly baked cookies cooling on the stove.
I set the lid back down on the display and looked up at the woman behind the counter.
“I’ll take two, please.”
-Michael Williamson is a reporter for the Journal-Tribune.
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