Subtle signs point to end of summer

I’m not saying you have to pack up the beach towels and sunscreen yet. You are even welcome to continue wearing white shoes. In fact, all we need is one good Santa Ana wind and I’m thinking Thanksgiving by the sea.
Nonetheless, I am here to announce that the summer holidays are over and we are now officially on the fall-winter holiday track. I know. I complain about forcing the holidays as much as the next guy, but the signs are upon us.
How do I know this? Well, sure we have Labor Day, but the real hallmark is that I just bought my first stocking stuffer. Everywhere and anytime I shop from now until Dec. 24 will include cruising end caps, bargain bins and dollar stores for cheap, goofy, fun, perhaps useful sock-sized items to fill my family’s Christmas stockings. I have to admit, finding the stuff is almost more fun than watching them unwrap it.
What? You say I have nearly-grown children so why would I be filling Christmas stockings? That’s the trouble with having a terrific mother like I did, who filled our stockings to overflowing every Christmas of my life and then went on to do it for her grandchildren. I believe there was some brief discussion once of ending that tradition. My kids made it very clear that would not be acceptable, thank you very much. Hence, I have to get an early start to gathering the items, which goes against my nature. When it is still almost four months until Christmas, it basically takes all my willpower to hang on to the stuff I find that is either hilarious or they could really use right now.
OK. You need more definite harbingers of the shift in seasons? Catalogs. The wish-books have started arriving, with lots of Halloween decorating ideas, Thanksgiving goodies and a sprinkling of Christmas stuff.
The retail merchants are already sneaking stuff onto the shelves, as well. I shamelessly weakened and bought some Halloween mugs and candy dishes for my party-maven daughter. She had the good sense to ask me to store them away until at least the end of September. I hope she remembers where I put them.
If you need any more absolute proof, my gardener-husband told me that some of the seasonal plants in our backyard are starting to show signs of change. I have to trust him on this since they look the same to me. We’d really like a liquidambar tree to show its gorgeous red and orange leaves, but we have to find our Southern California indicators where we can.
I promise, absolutely no pumpkins on my porch until Oct. 1, but remember, ladies. The best part of the holidays is that you can start shopping with a completely clear conscience. That’s my favorite present.

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