Autumn Leaves: A memory

[box type=”info”] An update: Woody’s hand surgery went smoothly last Wednesday afternoon and the biopsy came back with the expected good news. His sutures come out on Friday and he’ll have full use of his hand in another week. More surgery in January, this time on a shoulder, but again, it is what it is. Thank you for your many supportive comments. [/box]

 

Whenever I travel, I come home with new observations, new ideas, new insights. This past Thanksgiving trip driving to and from Ohio was no different.

But first, here’s a photo my younger granddaughter, Kendall (now 13), captured of Woody and Sasha on Thanksgiving morning.

Photo credit: Kendall Ackerman

She texted me her caption: Sasha is comfy.

I was tempted to write about our visit to one of Kendall’s rehearsals for the upcoming “A Never Ending Story” where she plays the lead (again). But no; you’ve all got your proud grandparent stories.

Instead . . .

Let’s talk about autumn leaves, since it’s still autumn (at least it was in Ohio when we were there).

While in Ohio, Woody and I opted to stay with an old friend from my past Ohio life. My son Jon already had six extra people squeezed into his three-bedroom home (with one and a half baths!). We spent each day at his house, but mornings and evenings were spent with Jeanne, in her spacious and comfy home on a tree-lined suburban street. That triggered an unexpected observation and memory:

 

 

I had not seen a pile of fallen leaves since I lived in Kazakhstan, where they burned them, to my guilty delight. Do you remember that smell? So distinctive; so agreeable; so toxic. And so illegal.

Here in Vermont where we’ve lived for thirteen years, we don’t even rake leaves. Before we got our chickens, we kept one container filled with dry leaves next to our compost bin so we could layer them with compost throughout the winter. Now that we have chickens who feast upon our compost (they are particularly drawn to moldy compost, but I digress),  we don’t even collect that container. Instead, the leaves decompose back into the land, even on our “lawn.” Easy peasy.

But seeing those leaves piled neatly (for the most part) in front of each well-manicured lawn in the Ohio suburb, I recalled not just the ancient fragrance of burning leaves, I remembered a long-ago street with not-so-well manicured lawns. Around the corner from the apartment where I lived at ages seven and eight, stood piles of leaves along the curb ready to be burned. As I thought of that sight, the memory of jumping into those piles with my friends came back even more strongly.

In my mind, I returned to those long-ago piles, frolicking among them with my friends, tossing the leaves skyward, giggling madly. Sixty-some years later, I ponder why no one ever got upset that we had messed up those neatly gathered piles.

Maybe that’s because it was the kids who did the raking? Curiously, I have no memory of raking them back into the piles after we were done. Only of walking home, alone.

How about you? What are your memories of autumn leaves? 

I have two more observations from my Thanksgiving trip, one involving public toilets. Shall I or shan’t I?  Only time will tell.

20 Responses

  1. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    I remember jumping in autumn leaves as a child. Such fun!

    Believe it or not, maples on our street in Florida are shedding their leaves. The yard man (men?) will come and whisk them all away soon. Few rakes will be used – blowers and all other kinds of mechanical things – bad for the environment, that’s for sure!

    Happy to hear about Woody’s progress!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Fred, Bunny, Eva and I Reckon with ForgivenessMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Oh yes, the noise! Somehow I’d blocked that out! I’ve fortunately escaped that bane; they hadn’t come on the scene back when I was raking my suburban lawn. And maple trees? I did not think Florida had any. Sugar maple? Red maple? Enjoy the colors. I hope you’ll post a photo.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Autumn Leaves: A memoryMy Profile

  2. Clive
    | Reply

    For me, autumn leaves take me back to my childhood, and many happy hours playing conkers. Sometimes at risk of damage to my knuckles, though 😊
    Clive recently posted…Wordless Wednesday #AdventCalendarMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Conkers? That’s a new one for me, Clive. I hope you’ll describe it on one of your blog posts. Did you burn leaves too back then?
      Janet Givens recently posted…Autumn Leaves: A memoryMy Profile

  3. Lea
    | Reply

    I’m glad Woody’s surgery went well.

    I remember jumping in leave piles as a kid who grew up in New England. My guess is that anyone who has jumped in leave piles as a kid wouldn’t mind kids jumping in their leave piles. After all what better use for a leave pile, right?

    We are in Florida and where we have lived we’ve never had to rake leaves.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you, Lea. I had a hunch the majority of my readers would have a very pleasant memory involving autumn leaves. Glad you are in that group.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Autumn Leaves: A memoryMy Profile

  4. Joan
    | Reply

    Autumn and its burst of colorful leaves is my favorite season of all and brings back memories of pressing apples for cider, and standing under a tree when a slight breeze releases the loosened leaves on and all around me. I call it a leaf flurry and it’s better than snow!

  5. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet —

    Your granddaughter, Kendall, is a wonderful photographer. I love the photo she captured of Sasha and Woody. And I’m so glad to hear that Woody’s on the mend. Woohoo!

    I’m still laughing at:
    “I had not seen a pile of fallen leaves since I lived in Kazakhstan, where they burned them, to my guilty delight. Do you remember that smell? So distinctive; so agreeable; so toxic. And so illegal.”

    My memories of autumn leaves?
    I grew up near the beach in southern California. I have memories of sand in my pants and every other nook and cranny, but not autumn leaves.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      You’ve reminded me of my many sandy beach weekends growing up, “down the shore” as we Jerseyites say. I once got tossed in the undercurrent so much that when I finally climbed out of the water, the lining of my one piece suit was filled with sand, pulling it down around my knees practically (one hand was sufficient to hold it up, fortunately).

      I’m sorry to hear you missed an autumn leafed youth. Here’s hoping you can offer one to your granddaughter — it is such fun see the world through their eyes. Thanks for adding your voice here, Laurie.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Autumn Leaves: A memoryMy Profile

  6. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Janet, I’m glad to hear Woody is on the mend, and enjoyed his post last week. As an October child, I’ve always loved Fall. Growing up in rural Ohio, we never raked our leaves, other than for the express purpose of jumping in them. (And it would have been pointless to pile them up, as the winds would have blown them all away anyway). My brother and I also used to make a game of catching them as they fell, sometimes chasing them all over the yard. The best were the ones that floated down like little helicopters… ‘Still awaiting your most recent book 🙂

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Little helicopters. Yes; I’d forgotten that part. Thanks, Tim. The print book arrived here last night (Amazon delivery man comes right to my door now; we’re developing a relationship) and I’ve just now finished going over it. I want my formatter to fix one header; then I’ll release it. I know; I’m a tad OCD when it comes to my books. You should have your eBook version though, yes? I sent the link to all my subscribers a few weeks ago. (personally, this is a book that needs to be written in; that’s why I have those blank pages following each chapter. So, thanks for holding out for the print). Glad you popped in.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Autumn Leaves: A memoryMy Profile

  7. Cheryl
    | Reply

    Hello Janet, what a lovely post. I grew up in Australia, so I have absolutely no memories of autumn leaves because Australian native trees aren’t deciduous, so they keep their leaves all year round. Of course, there are some deciduous trees there, imported from other countries, but not enough to provide those great piles of autumn leaves that you so fondly recall.
    Imagine my pleasure upon arriving in Moscow to live, and experiencing piles of autumn leaves for the first time in my life! Of course, they don’t burn them here, so I can only imagine the smell that you remember. But just seeing those golden mountains of leaves, well, you know, they’re so beautiful! 🙂
    Cheryl recently posted…Plastic Pen ProblemsMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I’m so glad you wrote, Cheryl. I knew Australia is considered a desert, but I hadn’t carried it out to the autumn leaf situation. I’m sad you’ve missed that, but of course Australia has so much to recommend it — I found it a strikingly beautiful country when I was there for three weeks in the late 1990s (Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide). I haven’t been able to find macadamia encrusted sheep’s brains since. (a fond memory, I assure you).

      I think there should be a way that everyone gets to experience the smell of burning leaves, just once. I found it interesting that Moscow also has the same law about burning leaves. Toxicity is universal, of course. Thanks for bringing that bit of cultural distinctions to us.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Autumn Leaves: A memoryMy Profile

  8. Janet
    | Reply

    I also have fond memories of jumping into leaf piles as a child, but I especially remember certain dogs we had over the years that showed pure joy jumping into leaf piles, racing around the yard, and then jumping into the leaf pile again. By the way, Sasha is gorgeous!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you, Janet. And Sasha thanks you as well.

      It’s so neat that you had dogs who also enjoyed fallen leaves. I never had that experience but am picturing it now. Joy.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Autumn Leaves: A memoryMy Profile

  9. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    Yes, Janet, the jumping into the piles, the smell of burning leaves, all of both a part of my childhood as well as of my grandsons. We too didn’t rake leaves at the farm. They just all composted into the lawn. Thanks for this trip down memory lane!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      You are so welcome. Funny, isn’t it, what triggers these memories. For me it’s usually smells. Can’t recall now if there was a distinct aroma associated with seeing those leaf piles. The sight was so powerful though, and out of the blue.

      So glad for you that you could provide those memories also for your grands.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Autumn Leaves: A memoryMy Profile

  10. Frank V. Moore
    | Reply

    I always had one or more dogs growing up, and jumping into piles of leaves (ours and our only neighbor’s) with them was a fall ritual. But the dogs didn’t need my presence for their frolicking. They were perfectly happy to dive in, burrow down, and leap back out all on their own.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      How cool for you. I had one dog growing up — a black terrier that suffered much because my mom and I had no clue about training a dog back then. Poor thing. I did enter her in a contest once and we won a ribbon for “cutest small black dog.” I thought that was all there was to raising a dog.

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