Fall, Sleepwalkers, and Virginia Tech. Good Times.

I always mentally mark the onset of new weather.

I am giddy when the first snow flakes flit and dance to the ground.

I get all endorphined-up on the first Spring day that’s warm enough for flip flops.

Seeing the summer heat rise up off the blacktop for the first time always gives me a rush.

Fall is altogether different, though. It’s arrival is spine-tingling. I’m not talking about Pretty Warm Fall with the brilliant blue sky and jewel toned leaves (which I also love), but Gloomy Gray Cold Fall, which arrived here on Friday.

Gloomy Gray Cold Fall has arrived!

Gloomy Gray Cold Fall is marked by a chilling wind, an ashen sky, and brown leaves flying through the air in droves. Each year when it presents itself, I think of the same things: Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers and Virginia Tech.

My freshman year was the only one I spent on campus. It’s the first time I remember paying attention to the change of the weather, maybe because dorm rooms aren’t big enough to store a full wardrobe and I was always worried about having the right clothes.

The New River Valley is typically windy, but Gloomy Gray Cold Fall has a signature cutting wind, and it seems to arrive overnight. One day it will be Pretty Warm Fall, and the next it will be Gloomy Gray Cold Fall.

It’s arrival excited me back then because it meant that fun things were just around the corner: Halloween, Thanksgiving Break, snow, my birthday, and the annual James Bond marathon on TBS.

On that first Gloomy Gray Cold Fall day of 1994, leaden clouds hung low overhead, the wind was piercing, and leaves were skidding and scraping across the sidewalks. The Gothic-style stone buildings with their gargoyles, stately and beautiful in the sun, brought a sense of foreboding that made my stomach flutter.

At least, I liked to imagine it was a sense of foreboding. It was almost Halloween, after all.

Embracing the newfound creepiness, me, my roommate Tonya, and my cousin Crystal zipped up our winter coats and held our hoods over our ears, and just before dark, we headed up the hill against the wind toward the Prairie. At Dietrick, we could rent VHS movies, and that evening we chose Sleepwalkers.

I never normally agreed to watch scary movies, (Don’t judge me, it was scary at the time) but with friends, it was adventurous and fun. We popped in the tape, turned out the lights in our little Main Eggleston dorm, and jumped and giggled at a completely unbelievable tale of human-feline-vampires as the cold night air seeped through our poorly insulated window.

What an appropriate way to welcome that Gloomy Gray Cold Fall that I love so much.

I haven’t celebrated its arrival with a scary movie since then, but I always remember the time that we did. Each year, when that cutting wind first chills my cheeks I feel the same exhilarating sense of imagined foreboding and I am just a kid again, planning a midday nap and an exciting future.


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