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Leaves of Memories
“Lynn! Come outside!” I yelled, “I think there are enough leaves now!” She came running out the backdoor, her eyes filled with excitement.
“Jena, go get the rakes, this is gonna be so much fun!” I remember running into the garage and tripping over the cluttered old floor, searching for the rakes. Once I found them I ran with them outside. They were taller than me and a whole bunch heavier than I’d usually carry. The air outside smelled like burnt wood, reminding me of the bonfires our school would have every fall. The trees were still coated with leaves, all different colors. The oak in our backyard was a flaming red, with orange and yellow scatters. It reminded me of fire, showing how triumphant the big oak really was.
As I ran to my sister, rake dragging behind me, I felt the brown leaves crunch under my old Nikes. It wasn’t exactly a noise you heard or even something you could feel. More of… a sensation. Even till now, each time I feel a crisp, crunchy leave under my shoe, I’d feel the a deep nostalgia for my house in Ohio and the days my sister and I would pile all the leaves together. Sad, but happy memories.
Lynn grabbed the rake and started to collect the leaves into a big pile. I got down on the floor and pushed them all with my hand. At this rate, it’ll take us forever to get all these leaves.. I thought. It was true; our backyard wasn’t smaller than a normal school’s baseball pitch. But Lynn and I were determined to gather as many as possible. As our pile grew, so did Lynn’s breathing. I could feel her asthma kicking in. We both could, but neither would dare say anything, for we didn’t want Mom to put our day to an end.
Finally, when Lynn’s breathing got pretty bad, I told her our pile was finally done, trying not to let her sense my reason. “I’m first! Dibbs!” I cried. I clutched my hand on one of the oak’s branches and hulled myself up. The ground looked far, but from where I was, the leaf pile was like a sanctuary.
I can remember standing up on that branch, and looking around our whole yard, as if it were the most stunning thing I have ever seen. I looked back down at the pile. And jump.
Everything blurred past me, for a split second I pretended I was flying. Then, all of a sudden, I landed in the leaves with a soft crunch under my butt. My sister and I giggled long enough for us to stop of cramps.
On fall days like these my mom, my sister, and I would go for walks in our neighborhood. We’d each carry a plastic bag and pick up walnuts from under the trees. I remember finding a big pile of them inside a tree trunk. “Whooaa! Mom, look in that tree! There are so many walnuts!” I screamed, running to them like they were a pot of gold.
“I bet a squirrel stashed it all in there for winter.” Lynn said, obviously not too passionate about the big stash. While as for me, the small, round, green and brown nuts looked like the greatest finding on Discovery Channel. I grabbed as much as my little, plump hands could take. But before I could get anymore… My conscious spoke to me. The poor squirrel worked for those walnuts, Jena. At least leave him some.. It was right. I took one more handful and walked away. Leaving my golden pleasure behind.
While we were walking, Lynn and I would usually pick up all the beautiful leaves we could find. Scarlet red, soft yellow, bright striking orange and ready-to-go-brown green. Sometimes all these colors in one leaf. We’d keep them and tape them on a piece of paper, flattening them down with tons of books. Then, after a few, long impatient days, we’d take them out and hang them on our walls. The most natural, symbolic decoration. We’d look at them every day for a week and remember where we found each. Sometimes Mom would even write what kind of tree they came from.
On our way back home from our walk, we’d stop by my neighbor’s house. In her backyard was the most un-expected pet. “Oink oink oink oink oink! I can’t wait to see piggy!” I’d sing on our way up our neighbor’s front porch. Yes, a 120 pound pig. Lynn and I would feed him apples till our neighbors would run out. Each time the pig bit down on the ripe, red apple. It’d make a sweet, crunchy sound, juice dipping from his muzzle. Juice turning into slobber, he’d turn to me for more. Each time I fed him was even more fun than the one before it. When my neighbor would open the door, she’d always be delighted to see us. “Lynn! Jena! What a pleasure to have you! Come on in. I’m guessing you’re here to see Frank.” Frank the pig. What a name! On our way to the backyard, we’d go through the house. And most often see her husband watching television, with a bottle of beer in his hand. Mom would always rush us past his room. I didn’t know what “drunk” was at that time. But I sensed he wasn’t the man I’d particularly like to spend my time with. Our pig visit would usually end when the drunken man would come outside to see who these giggling children are. Mom would tell us that was enough and it was time to go home.
Every spring, our neighbor would mow their lawn. Usually every day. On the nice silent mornings, waking up to the sound of birds, I’d hear the rrrooommrooroorooommm of the lawnmower, and go out to see a shirtless man sitting and drinking on his four-wheel mow. His harry, flabby beer belly as a pig’s stomach, reminds me now of how most pet owners look like their pet.
Lynn and I were never too upset about leaving Piggy, for we knew what was waiting for us at the end of our walk. After patient waiting, our walnut collection would finally pay off. “Me, me! This one is mine. You got the last one Lynn!” The little, holy brown walnuts are secluded by a hard shell, so Mom would have to break each one with a hammer one by one. The pile growing smaller as we filled our small tummys. When our cravings of walnuts were satisfied with the crunchy bitter taste, Lynn and I would help our mom crack more for tea.
As the sun would set on our adventurous, amusing day, Lynn and I would go out to the garage to get firewood for our fireplace. Each one held at least two. Lynn would try to show off with 3 small ones. But my small stubby fingers never let me hold that much. The lumber would scrape against my arms and torso as I heroically tried to carry them to the living room without calling my strong armed sister for help. I’d always end up having to stop in the middle of my journey to put down the wood for a second break, knowing it would be worth it.
As Mom lit the wood, I readied the tea tray. Coming back to the crackling of the fire, I’d remember the leaves out in the fall. The ones my sister and I would pile up with each other after a patient waiting for them to turn crunchy enough to rake. Those days, were our special ones. Those days are the days we will treasure forever. Every time I step on a brown crinkled leaf, the memories of fall come back to me like an old reopened yearbook.