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