Leaves from my neighbor’s massive oak tree have been flooding my yard since the last time I raked leaves. Some may remember the previous story, Smells Like Teen Spirit, that featured one monumental pile of leaves and three very jumpy kids. Today’s narrative is the sequel, the part two.
Winter is approaching, yet southwestern Pennsylvania hasn’t received any recordable snowfall. With a series of mild winters over the last few years, my best meteorological wager is placing money on serious snowfall for the upcoming months. I feel that’s just Winter Karma baby, and we’re going to get pounded, which leads me to today.
The temperature is brisk, requiring a winter coat and some cotton gloves, at least. My wife has purchased another round of recyclable paper bags for me to complete the leaf project—she’s so very thoughtful and considerate. I begin with the front yard, directly under the maple tree, raking all leaves across the grass and down into the driveway. The new leaves are combined with the existing sea of oak leaves that have fallen from my neighbor’s tree.
I pause from my work to meet the neighbor, who lives across the street, in the middle of the street. He introduces himself, Mister B-something-something, but doesn’t offer his first name. Top secret, I guess. I offer my first name, but he wants more information. I reveal my last name, and he confirms that it is a solid German name. I agree. He tells me that he’s lived there for five years (yes, I know) and never met me (that’s because I’m an introvert), proceeding to tell me about his work for the government or something along those lines. He’s harmless enough, unless he’s a Super Spy for the FBI, and I return to my task.
The pile is massive, probably five-feet tall with a circular base of ten feet. From inside, the kids presumably hear me raking, and begin to generate their own ideas—thousands of dry leaves to jump in! Soon, all three kids (some still in their afternoon pajamas) are peering at the pile, strategizing their jump. The rules are simple: each kid gets two jumps, you must land on your feet, and you can’t do a flip. Running leaps, dashes, spins, drops, and backstrokes among the leaves. In between leaps, the pile is refreshened by my son, for maximum shock absorbance.
Once the Jumpfest has concluded, I begin the difficult work of bagging, and, simultaneously, all three kids disappear. I have no idea where they dashed to, but my best guess is back inside, under the warmth of a heated blanket, or parked in front of a steaming mug of hot chocolate.
It was on my fifth birthday that Papa put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Remember, my son, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm.’ ~ Sam Levenson
I have ten paper bags to fill, before I can call it quits, and as I complete the fourth bag, my son returns. “I had to get a long drink of water, is it too late to help?,” he asks. I’m delighted that he wants to assist me—I certainly don’t want to do the entire job myself, and—handing him his own bag to fill—I accept his help. In less than thirty minutes, we have all ten bags filled, stacked in the driveway, awaiting the garage collection on Tuesday morning; although, a hefty pile remains in the driveway. I will need to find more bags in the garage, or purchase another pack. I still need to remove all of these leaves before our first big snow: loose leaves on a slippery driveway provide absolutely zero traction for my two vehicles. I’ve lived here long enough, nearly seventeen years now, to know all about my own driveway.
The job is finished for today (with the exception of the remaining leaves) and I return inside. As I walk up the stairs, my daughter yells for me to not enter the kitchen. Suspicious, very suspicious, but I comply. I sit on the couch for a few minutes before she enters, holding a cup on a saucer, delicately balancing a beverage.
She crosses the room, and hands me her work of art: parked in front of my face is a steaming mug of hot chocolate with chocolate shavings and chunks of chocolate on the saucer. This is going to be delicious.