Shades of orange, yellow, and brown cover the landscape of our home. It’s that season again – when our three large trees shed their foliage to become barren reminders of a spring long gone.
We can play hot lava in the backyard now, with grass acting as lava and the leaves as solid ground. With youthful exuberance, we bound from group to group until I am the only one left standing. I jump in the air and giggle at the remains of my brother and sister. Their lifeless corpses jerk on the ground as if being swallowed by the lava.
Dad comes out and says with a derisive sigh, “Looks like raking season is here.”
“We’ll do it!” the three of us exclaim.
He smiles and nods before disappearing into the shed.
When he returns, he hands us each our very own rake.
“Careful of splinters,” he says as he returns to the shed.
I start raking. Little brother watches intently, and I realize this might be the first time he’s ever raked. He mimics my every move, and I smile and move even more deliberately than I did before. The rake becomes an extension of his two hands as he pulls one lone leaf closer to the center.
“Boring. When can we play?” little bro asks.
I twirl my rake in the air, imagining I’m a ninja, and he follows suit, albeit awkwardly. We whack our wooden handles against each other’s and yell out “Cowabunga!”. The metal prongs are dangerously close to us, but I only half think about how much it would hurt if we scratched ourselves with them.
Dad exits the shed with a tall ladder. “Be careful, kiddos.”
We nod our heads furiously.
“Whatcha doin’?” I ask him.
“Gutters,” he says with a tsk.
We make a giant pile of leaves in the center of the backyard. It towers almost as high as little brother, and it looks perfect for the next game.
We play it all the time in autumn. Every time there is a pile of leaves, we measure it up and down. We push leaves higher into the pile to add buoyancy and enjoy the thrill of flying into the air and falling onto it without a care in the world.
With a big running leap, I watch my brother land and flatten the pile. A spray of leaves scatters and cascades onto the dry earth. A few flutter in the wind and land on his arms and legs. With a giggle, he gets up and runs to do it again.
I look at the pile and notice branches sticking up from within. My smile fades.
“Not fair! It’s my turn,” little sis says.
The two start to run towards the defeated pile, but I run out in front of them, arms spread eagle.
What if little bro or sis falls into one of the branches? What if it goes all the way through? I wince.
“You can’t,” I say.
With a gasp, sis looks at me hurt and confused. Little bro starts to cry.
“You’ll get hurt!” I say.
I know they won’t listen, so I walk away and come back with some garbage bags. I clean up the pile while they run around the yard doing somersaults and swinging their rakes around like swords and staffs. I sigh sadly.
“Oh, to be young again,” I whisper.