There is a candle called, “Sweater Weather.” It’s golden yellow and the label boasts an image of a crisp fall day; red, orange, and yellow leaves blown across a curved sidewalk. The sun glitters through the remaining leaves on the branches, and the sky is a glorious blue. I am holding the candle as I would a mug of fresh brewed coffee. My hands cup the sides and I smile as I bring the glass and wax towards my nose.
About fifteen years ago, I met a girl named Angela. We became fast friends, and I suppose I should describe her as a woman or young lady, but I’m writing this story on the cusp of turning forty, and I’m thinking about two first year teachers, newly married, and new to South Bend, Indiana. We were both bright-eyed girls, and smelling “Sweater Weather” reminds me of them.
On Thursday nights, Angela and her husband, Tim, would come over to our apartment, a great little place tucked on a sort of peninsula of land along the St. Joseph River. We’d eat dinner and watch “Friends.” My husband, Jesse, strung twinkle lights on our deck and if it was still warm, the four of us would sit outside and discuss who knows what over beers after the show ended.
On Friday mornings, before the sun rose, Angela and I would meet at Studebagels for breakfast. We filled our cups to their rims with strong, black coffee and ordered toasted sesame bagels with pepper-jack cheese, extra crispy bacon, and eggs. We would talk about everything while the sun turned the sky lighter shades of blue and its beams glowed through the window warming my cheeks so I wouldn’t have to hold the coffee cup so close.
Once, during a period of time when I was having struggling with teaching, Angela paid a visit to my 6th grade classroom. She walked to my desk where I was hunched over notebooks scribbling down lesson plans.
“Up,” she said, taking my bag and keys off hooks, and taking the pen out of my hand.
“There’s so much to do,” I told her, my fingers twitching from the absence of my pen. “I can’t get a handle on it.”
“I know,” she said. “Me either.” She pulled my arm so I’d get out of the chair. “Let’s take a break.”
We went down the street to Barnes and Noble and ordered coffee. Angela grabbed stacks of magazines: People, InStyle, Glamour. We sipped coffee and flipped through the glossy pages discussing hairstyles, jeans, and movie stars. I don’t remember if we went back to work, or if I ever decided I got a handle on all that comes with teaching, but I remember the time spent with Angela.
She and I loved to scrapbook, and one Saturday in the fall, Angela came over with her paper and pictures, and a set of twenty tea lights. “It’s called a fall sampler,” she explained, setting the candles around the living room. I lit them and we worked while the day turned into evening and we traded stories while the candles flickered.
I look for fall smelling candles the minute I see a change of color on the leaves, though I’ve never seen a candle called “Sweater Weather.” Before I take a whiff I wonder, can you really capture the smell of a chunky, favorite sweater? Is it possible to light a match and inhale the smell of crisp anticipation of a season in the throws of change? Probably not. It’d be a lot like trying to capture the smell of friendship.
Still, I buy “Sweater Weather,” and another candle called “Thankful.” I bring them to the cashier and she wraps them in brown tissue paper so they won’t break as they travel to their new destination.
“These two will go nicely together,” the cashier tells me as she hands me my receipt.
“I think so, too,” I say, and turn to leave the store.