### Home Thoughts for Fall

By Stuart Mitchner

As someone who grew up in Bloomington, “the Gateway to Scenic Southern Indiana,” I know something about fall colors. Even for a kid with limited aesthetic awareness, there was no ignoring the splendor of the leaves. I walked to school splashing through puddles of gold and red, and since bonfires were allowed in those days, the air always had a hazy, mysterious quality. Whenever I think back to that time of year, I’m in seventh grade and we’ve moved from graduate student barracks on the outskirts of town to a large two-story house five blocks from the University campus. Suddenly my parents had a veritable mansion to furnish with enough space for a grand piano, sofas, easy chairs, coffee tables — this after four years in the equivalent of a four-room cabin with a pot-bellied stove in the living room.

Although I had no interest in how people furnished their homes — how many adolescents do? — it was hard to ignore the fact that my parents were busy doing just that. At the same time, I was being exposed to other people’s living rooms during my brief career as a babysitter, which I also associate with the fall, having spent some uneasy Halloweens alone in strange houses. People would say “We’ll be home by midnight,” but they never were. When you’re stuck in someone’s living room for hours while your charges are sleeping, you start making comparisons. My clients were all faculty people, so while the couple in the sociology department kept things clinically neat and the only books I could make sense of were the ones I read to the kids (who were not that much younger than I was), the English professor’s house across the street was always in bookish disarray, with the latest works by writers like Hemingway and Steinbeck attractively in evidence. Then, as now, books are the element of decor I’m most responsive to. That said, the house that made the most powerful impression on me belonged to an artist, with the living room opening into his studio. There was no way not to be interested in clutter that seemed to have a purpose, since most objects in view had either been sculpted or crafted or painted by him, the hardest to ignore being an enormous pastel nude of his six-foot-tall wife, who would hand me my money when I left as if there were nothing especially remarkable about the presence of her unclothed self looming in the background.

#### Tea with Reese

Given Reese Witherspoon’s relation to Princeton’s most esteemed president and Declaration of Independence signer (“a first cousin nine times removed”), it would be remiss not to mention her lavish new book, Whiskey in a Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me About Life, Love & Baking Biscuits (Rizzoli \$35). According to the star and producer of the HBO hit Big Little Lies, the title comes from a saying of her grandmother Dorothea’s, that Southern women were like whiskey in a teacup. “We may be delicate and ornamental on the outside,” she said, “but inside we’re strong and fiery.” According to Cosmopolitan, “OK, so you can’t party with Reese Witherspoon, but you can party like Reese Witherspoon — thanks to this part memoir, part guide to Southern living from Elle Woods [of Legally Blonde] herself. The gorgeously shot book features tips on entertaining, as well as recipes, beauty hacks, and totally random but necessary lessons like how to catch a frog with your bare hands.”