Come Fall

Exhibit A: Daughter with Rake

When I think about this time of year, the period of time between Halloween and Thanksgiving, I think about leaves. Every year’s pictures highlight my children’s growing fascination with rakes and piles made for jumping. They look forward to the slightly sweet, earthy smells and crisp sounds that mark the true end of autumn. Although winter doesn’t formally begin until almost Christmas, once the leaves come down, the weather becomes quickly inhospitable.

Exhibit B: Son with PacifierBefore we lived down south, the great outdoors had been rejecting our company for some weeks before we got around to raking up tree droppings. In contrast, down here, we’ve been known to wear short sleeves. Still, it’s a chore I loathe, and not the least because it involves a Sisyphusian effort to collect all of the leaves into bags while my urchins simultaneously scatter them.

I think my real problem is that leaf raking is  a marker that differentiates my childhood from my adult life, and not in a way I like. I grew up in the country. When the leaves came down, we left them there. I think we sometimes mowed the grass one last time to mulch them up if the weather would tolerate it. But mostly, the only time we raked leaves was when we needed a pile of them for jumping on or for wintering in a flower bed.

But oh LORD, when Scott and I rented our first house, we discovered there are tracts written about the dangers of leaving your leaves. They aren’t good insulators. In fact, quite the opposite, they suffocate circulation and their acid is actually bad for grass. Bad for everything except trees, and then only before they fall off. So every year now since before Caroline was born, we’ve had to go after the leaves in our yard.

As a child, before I started having nightmares about school, I would dream that I was lost in a neighborhood of identical houses with literally faceless occupants whose pale green yards ran on forever. I would walk and walk and never get home. Mostly, I ignore our suburban yard in the spring and summer, now. But raking the leaves makes me so aware of how much our house looks exactly like the house next door to us. How very much we are still living in Levittown in 2011, and how many of the truly unique things in my life I’ve had to leave behind.

And the final exhibit, both children fully indoctrinated in the Stepford traditionIt wasn’t so bad when we lived in Lexington and the city’s aggressive mulching program meant that our efforts resulted in positive things for the environment at least. But down here, I don’t even know what Montgomery does with the leaves it collects, and, given the fate of its curbside recycling program, I hesitate to find out.

It’s no wonder movies and TV shows gloss over this time of year. Purely aside from the fact that advertisers start the Christmas Season before Halloween has even come and gone, the leaves just don’t make for much news. How much simpler to jump from trick-or-treat to turkey feast than to  interject a scene of bored people manhandling tree dandruff.

I admit. I love the fall. I like the cooler weather that allows us to get outside and play more often. It is a beautiful time, when the sun sets early and the trees put on a nature show no science museum can equal. But I hate the shedding, the raking. It makes me feel like winter is coming. It makes me feel cold.


a flicker of inspiration at Lightning Bug

This post responds to Lightning Bug’s Flicker of Inspiration prompt number 23, which asks writers to examine the time between Halloween and Thanksgiving.



Also, Mama Kat asked for a fall piece. I just recently wrote this. So I’m being a cheaterpants and linking up with it.MamaKat


12 thoughts on “Come Fall

  1. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this. I hate raking and bagging leaves. I leave them in the ‘rough’ part of the garden but round the house I have a sort of hardcore on the ground and then volcanic chips on the flower beds so they all have to be removed one way or another, bagged and taken to the tip in my car. Ouf! I sympathise.

  2. Leaves are one of my favorite parts of the fall-We used to rake them all up and jump in them all afternoon. Now, I’m just thankful that where I live doesn’t make me rake. Such is one of the parts of growing up, eh?

    Nice job-Love that last picture! Too cute!

  3. We have two huge, huuuuuuuuge oak trees out front. Raking is endless this time of year. And it is not as much fun without the little guys squealing and jumping in the piles while I work. That was always my best motivation.

    • We have to rake this weekend, and it’s kind of rainy today and yesterday. So I’m anxiety ridden that the leaf games will wind up cancelled by water. If I HAVE to deal with them, at least somebody can enjoy them.

  4. I feel a little guilty for being so homesick for fall…LA doesn’t really have and I’m forced to make do with the six leaves on the ground in our neighborhood. I guess all that raking is sort of awful. Still, I’m jealous (and so are my kids!) of those leaf piles…

  5. Nah – don’t feel guilty. Just do what one of my sisters-in-law did one year and come rake my leaves up for me. (She totally did that. I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I somehow lucked out on the in-law draw. I couldn’t ask for more amazing people.) Seriously though, I can understand how someone would long for it. I think if I’d grown up a kid in the suburbs where jumping in the leaves had meaning, I wouldn’t hate it so much. My kids are going to love this chore as adults, I suspect. My husband doesn’t even mind it.

  6. In the last couple of years, we’ve hired a service to do our fall cleanup. They take away all the leaves and we have nothing left to protect our roses. Yet, they survive in the scary Chicago winters. That whole “protect your beds with leaves” thing must really be a wives’ tale.

    I’m next to you at Mama Kat’s, and you don’t even have to rake leaves to come to visit me.

  7. Living in the city as I do, I miss the falling leaves, but I must admit that I’m just as glad I don’t have to rake them up! The smell of the leaves takes me back to my childhood — but of course then I wasn’t the one wielding the rake.

For the love of Mike, TALK to me! (Concrit welcome on fiction)

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