Autumn lament: 'Leaf' me alone
For reasons I shall soon go into,
I hate them, even though it's a sin to.
Who would have thought all this grief would come from a little leaf?
As a kid, leaves were my friends in falls,
So how could friendship prove so false?
When leaves were raked and neatly piled,
I'd jump in and get the raker riled.
That changed when I became a grown-up,
I had to rake leaves that had blown up.
As a result I now firmly believe
That every last leaf should leave.
Kids view leaves, grass and snow as a great deal of fun for each season, but that all changes when we get older and have to rake, mow and shovel.
My love affair with leaves ended on a beautiful autumn day when I was about 12 years old. A guy a few blocks away had trees all along his corner property.
He would rake them into a huge pile and then stand guard, ready to swing a rake at any kid who couldn't resist the urge to go leaf diving.
I was still skinny in those days, so I hid behind a no parking sign and waited for the opportunity. the guy drank a lot of coffee while he was raking, so I knew it was just a matter of time before he had to take a brief bathroom break.
My chance came when ran into the house. (As I recall, he moved remarkably fast for a man of his age.) I moved reasonably fast for a kid of my age and took a flying, headfirst dive into the pile of leaves.
When I came to, I was lying on my back looking up into the smiling face of the rake guy. In my haste to go leaf-pile diving, I had forgotten that there was a fire hydrant under all those leaves.
Up until that moment, I was willing to travel throughout our town in search for heaps of leaves that served as a multi-colored landing pad.
This nomadic existence was necessary because we did not have any trees on our side of the street. As a matter of fact, we had very little vegetation of any sort.
This was due primarily to the fact there was a whole brigade of baby boomers on our block. We trampled grass and plants with a ruthless efficiency unknown since the days Attila and his Huns were rampaging through Europe.
Our leaf-leaping expeditions also had an added attraction. There were a dozen or so horse chestnut trees in various parts of town. These trees were not prized for their leaves. They bore green pods that would burst open - or be burst open by us - to reveal the dark brown horse chestnuts.
About the only thing you could do with these horse chestnuts was to collect them. Old cigar boxes - generally without old cigars in them - were the popular choice for such collections.
The sad irony was that when guys in my age bracket grew up and left home, our moms tossed out baseball and football card collections that were worth good money. Meanwhile, cigar boxes filled with dried-up horse chestnuts remained safe under beds and in coobie holes.
As a young and not-so-young adult, I did not have a problem with trees or their multi-colored leafy litter. My second-floor apartment had a roofed back porch that sat in the shade of a huge maple tree. This was a win-win proposition for me.
My guests and I got to enjoy the cool shade of the tree in the summer and its beautiful colors in the fall. Best of all, my landlord had to worry about picking up the leaves.
Jo Ann and I moved back to my old neighborhood after we were married. While grass and other plants had managed to return, there were no trees or leaves to speak of.
However, Mother Nature got her long-awaited revenge when we moved. Due to the fact that a large falling tree had once just missed putting a skylight in Jo Ann's parents' home, we opted to "de-tree" our lot.
The homes in our neighborhood are beautiful and the lots are so well landscaped that it seems as though we are living in a state park.
The payback comes in the fact that most of the original trees are oaks. Many deciduous (I did pay some attention in science class) trees thoughtfully drop their leaves at about the same time.
Oaks do not. They make a habit of shedding dried-out leaves through all four seasons. In the winter, snow means that I won't have rake leaves, but I will have to shovel snow.
Fall, however, is still the most frustrating season. After an hour or two of running the lawn tractor and accumulating bag after bag of shredded leaves, I uncover our lawn.
When I look out the window the following morning, the green has disappeared under an avalanche of oak leaves.
One of these times, I'm just going to rake all of those leaves into one big pile, pace back about 10 yards and then take a flying leaf dive.
This time, though, I'm going to first check for fire hydrants.
(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes Walt's Way for each Sunday edition.)