As Fall is creeping in and the days are getting shorter and chillier, I am overcome with the memory of a Saturday in our little house in College Park. My mother in the kitchen listening to the radio. The strains of Maryland University's marching band in the distance. And my Father announcing that, I'm paraphrasing here, 'the damned leaves were not going to rake themselves'.
It was a day in late October. Dad got his workforce in place. I know I was forced labor. I think my brother and sister were probably volunteers. We raked up the quarter acre's worth of leaves that had fallen. It took all day. We made a lot of piles to jump in. We had swordfights with the rakes. We had to take a lot of breaks, of course. The work was backbreaking!
But finally, we would rake the leaves into one huge pile in the driveway. We'd stand around it and shiver as the day grew cold. And then Dad would light the dry, crackling leaves and we would watch the flames flicker for a moment and then suddenly whoosh into a beautiful bonfire. And then we could smell the burning leaves!
It like to think it was a simpler time. It wasn't really. Lots of things were going on in the world, many of them bad, but I didn't know what was coming. I couldn't foresee future tragedy or celebration. For me on that afternoon it was just the leaves. And that was enough.
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