Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Jumping in Leaves

It's that time of year again. There's a chill in the air; reds and yellows are exploding on the maples everywhere; Dunkin' Donuts is foisting its pumpkin-spice-laden products on us all...

...and the rake is glaring at me from our garage.

I won't bore you with the details, but let's just say we've been fighting an ongoing battle with the leaves in our yard for oh, 10 years now. There are too darned many of them, and most are not even the beautiful sugar maples that produce amazing color but the swamp maples that are just, well, annoying.

She's writing about leaves? You ask. Yes, I'm writing about leaves. I get worked up about leaves. We used to pay people to do the darned leaves...until every year the price got higher and the job the people did got shoddier ("Oh, you wanted us to do the whole yard?"). Paying $500 or more was too hard to swallow. And so, for three or four years now, we've all grabbed rakes (and Dan a leaf-blower) and tackled the leaves every late October and into November.

Last year I raked while seven months pregnant and managed to contract poison ivy. I bribed the kids to help out (something like a quarter per bag). I ran operations in the backyard like a drill sergeant, barking out orders while the kids whined. In the end we raked 150 bags before the last day the town did leaf pick-up, and still didn't get them all. In fact, our backyard after a few days didn't even looked as if it had been touched. I wanted to cry. I prayed for early snow so I wouldn't have to look at it all.

Some time later, I looked out at the leaves that kept disappearing and reappearing under falling then melting snow, and it hit me:

For all of the time we spent with the leaves those five weeks or so, how much time had we spent jumping in them?

Had I even raked one pile for the kids to crash into, to bury themselves under?

I wasn't sure. Maybe way back in the beginning. Maybe the first day.


And I wondered why. I wondered how things had gotten so out of hand.

This is what we do, as adults. This is why we laugh less and fret more. This is why we become boring. It's when we see things like falling leaves as obstacles what? To having the perfect yard? To what end?

I don't know why I didn't see it before. I'm not sure why I even bothered. The busy craziness of the past year has cemented it: we will never be able to keep up with the proverbial Jones'. Our bushes are way overgrown, our garden has turned into a sumac-tree wonderland, our grass never grows, and our siding really needs to be power washed. It would take thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to make things right.

It would take time that I don't want to lose.

The people who owned our house before? According to my neighbor, the guy who lived here for 30 years before we moved in spent all of his time trying to coax grass to grow. There he'd be, out in the yard, spring, summer, and fall, sweating in the sun, watering, watching, experimenting, planting again. Only grass just wouldn't grow. Or at least not to his standards. And then? Well, then he died at a relatively young age. And his wife died not long after.

Yes, we'll rake this year. We'll do our best. We'll spend some Saturdays and the kids will whine and my back will ache. We'll pick up what we can, and the yard we still be blanketed with reds and yellows and oranges. Then snow will fall, as it always does.

But before that, I will rake more than one mountain. We'll take (yes, me too) flying leaps into the piles and get lost under it all. We'll breathe in the sweet scent of dying leaves. We'll get a few crunchy pieces in our hair and maybe our mouths. Someone will ask to get buried. We'll feel itchy.

I will learn to love even the things I cannot conquer. We'll run and jump. And we'll laugh the whole way down.

Chloe in her very first leaf pile

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