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In northeastern USA, fall comes first in the highest
reaches of New England, then creeps on frosty feet down the mountains and high
hills, through the Adirondacks, the Poconos and Great Smoky Mountains, painting
them crimson and gold. It creeps into the valleys as it announces
the winter to come, putting on a glorious show until the leaves dry up and fall
Most beautiful of all are the sugar maples, whose broad
leaves display a rainbow of reds and gold. My mid-childhood was spent in Wyoming, New York, in a valley
just north of the Poconos, where the town still has gas lights and the
streets are lined with huge, ancient sugar maples. We would look for
the most gorgeous and perfect maple leaf to take to school, and the teacher
would pin them up on the bulletin board.
One thing was both good and bad - raking the leaves. If there were
children in the house, they were usually the ones assigned this task.
It wasn't just work. First we raked them into "walls", making a huge
house on the front lawn. Out would come the dolls, doll dishes, old
blanket and play kitchen appliances to furnish our home, and we'd play house.
To tell the truth, although I wanted to play with my friends, I was not a real
fan of playing house, and usually would try to play the husband or the dog if
the others would go along with it. Sometimes I persuaded them to play
hospital instead, but rarely. The disadvantage was that each evening
we'd have to haul in all the toys, and by the next afternoon, the wind, new leaf
fall and stray dogs had usually blurred the lines so we had to re-rake.
When we tired of this, there were two other games we played, and I've completely
forgotten the rules or the point. One, we raked the leaves into a
huge circle, the walls like a cut pie. The other we'd rake them into
irregularly placed squares; I think this must have been some variation of
hopscotch. But I'll bet prolific author
can come up with the rules! (Note: Cynthia says not. I'm
pretty sure the squares were hopscotch, and the pie-cut circle some type of tag.
Maybe we invented it. Anyone remember something like this?
Leave your comments below.)
Next, when we tired of our games or the lawn got too messy for our parents'
liking, we raked them all into a huge pile, and took turns running and jumping
into the pile. The boys took part in this, too, scattering the leaves with
Some households used part of the leaves to bed down rose bushes, spring bulbs
and rhizomes, and other flowering plants, to protect them from the worst of the
cold, and believe me, the winters were long and snowy there!
The rest were raked to a bare spot far from dry shrubs or buildings, or
sometimes raked to the curb, and burned under an adults' supervision.
Rarely an autumn passed but the fire department had to come out at least once
and put out a bonfire that threatened to spread.
I remember afterwards, kicking through the ashes, sometimes finding a scorched
doll dish or other toy that had gotten left behind, and pensively realizing that
another summer had gone away forever.