just a moment ago i felt fall coming. every year in late august i realize something is different than last month, or even last week. fall is quiet, nostalgic, hopeful. i was conceived in the fall. the season becomes me.
my family lived on carpenter street until i left for college and then some, in the house with grey shingles and a deck built by my dad, painted this color:an odd color, i always thought. maybe it was mom's idea, along with the flower-adorned wall sconces, porcelain nicknacks, crystal candy dishes, napkin rings to match every season, the framed print of a doe-eyed italian girl holding a basket of fruit...mom says she looks like me, but that's no reason to hang her on the wall. i have always said mom, you have too much stuff. and she always says, well you just aren't a girl. i am her girl, though. her baby. that's what she tells me any time she's close enough to pull me against her chest and squeeze me tight as can be and sway back and forth and then tell me you are too thin, there's nothing to you, even though i've been this thin for years.
in fall, behind the house where i grew up, i would jump into piles of leaves. not in our yard, because we didn't have but a tiny, narrow patch. it was mrs. marchio's. she made the best homemade pizza and was the grandmother of my best neighbor-friend, vicki, with the thick black bangs, the dimpled chin, and irises darker than any other i've yet to see. we scooped and piled leaves – were they oak or maple? – from the tree with the thick, split trunk that my beagle, cujo, used to climb. it was right next to the flimsy fence that separated mrs. marchio's yard from the schroeders, whose huge, grassy yard i coveted all through my childhood. sometimes our pile of leaves was still damp with dew or leftover rain, but we'd jump in anyway.
do kids still jump in leaves? i never see it. these days kids don't stay kids for long. not nearly long enough. it seems enduring childhoods are a thing of the past. of my past, thankfully. i had a childhood sweet as the pixie sticks and peanut butter logs vicki and i would pick from the candy shelf in the old, dim, one-room neighborhood store with the wooden floors – was it called wagner's or H&T? i can't remember. i know this much – that long-ago innocence is still a part of me. someday, when i find the nerve, i'll thank my parents for always asking where i was going and who i was with, and for saying no more than they said yes. it's what kept my head in the sky and my toes in the dirt.
all that exists between ground and sky — emails, cell phones, gossip, deadlines, credit cards, red tape, word isn't bond, love isn't real, fake sugar, fake boobs, brand names ...i want so much less of all of that, and so much more of the sky and the dirt. the real stuff. the good stuff.
this fall i'm gonna jump in a pile of leaves, for the first time since carpenter street. i wonder who'll come with me.