Monday, November 25, 2013

The Leaf Pile

The Leaf Pile
Article appears in the current issue of FOLK Magazine, Fall 2013.
Autumn is pure excitement!  As an adult it means cable knit sweaters and well heeled boots can come out of summer slumber.  Fall means sipping hot spiced cider while browsing quaint Main Street shops as holiday goods make their debut.  But as a child, autumn meant a new season of magic as nature’s leafy curtain fell open to reveal bone like branches, fiery colors falling from the sky, the grandest sight of all: the leaf pile.
To kids in the Northeast, autumn officially arrived with the first fleck of orange on the maple tree, regardless of the calendar date.  It would be only a matter of weeks before the ground was covered in crunchy oranges, reds, and browns- the perfect blend for leaf piling!  Neighborhood kids would assemble with rakes and hoodies prepared to work hills of fun in fallen foliage.  Most of us were content with a medium sized pile, about waist high, close to a wooden swing.  The first jumps were slow, just a few gentle swings to test our bravery and be sure the rocks sifted to the bottom. Before long we were pumping our legs to go higher and smiling wide as we leapt from safety to land leaf covered, laughing at the awkward whooooosh!  A quick raking to reform the pile and it was time to launch again.
But there were some among us who pushed the limits of the pile and toppled wheelbarrows full from deck edges to create a monster pile!
Over the rake’s gritty scratching, we could hear them.  They were there, again, just like the years before!   We could hear their triple dog dare taunting and hoots and hollers. The middle-schoolers! They were more experienced, had already broken bones, and were massing a mountain-high pile granted by the largest oaks on the block.  We couldn’t help but be lured in by the promise of danger.  My friends and I would line up along the white picket fence separating the street from the twelve foot drop to the yard below.  There it was: the mammoth leaf pile of doom! It was higher than the garage door and centered eight feet out from the second story deck railing: the ledge of legends.  One by one, the older boys would perch atop the wooden railing and pitch themselves into the pile, burying themselves completely and emerging from the pile base with a victorious “Yeeeeeeeeehaaaawwww!”  The leaf pile so well constructed it needed no re-raking.  One boy, a tall scrawny blond with a bicycle mishap scar down one arm, launched off the railing followed, without warning, by another boy who landed right on top of the blonde head.  A howl escaped as the boys tumbled down the side of the pile in mock fist fighting.  Brushing themselves off with laughter they headed back up the deck steps for more.
My friends and I stared on in awe, boasting we would swan dive that pile if only they would let us….. secure in the knowledge we wouldn’t get the chance.  It would be years until we were in middle school; until we were cool like that. In those days we were content with our mini leaf pile under the swing.  When we were done jumping we sat in the pile eating sunflower seeds, boasting about our Halloween costumes and promising to be the best of friends forever.

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