I know that it is not quite officially fall yet, but because it is my favorite season of the year I always rush it just a bit. I start decorating my home with pumpkins and wreaths and lots of fall colors as soon as September arrives. I light the candles that bring scents of spice and apples into my home. I enjoy the slightly cooler days and the shorter hours of daylight. September is the herald of things and people that I most love.
When I was only five years old I used to accompany my mom and dad on visits my grandparents every Sunday afternoon. Often my grandfather would be raking leaves from the yard when we arrived while my grandmother was in her kitchen cooking a bountifully dinner for all of us. Since she was busy in the kitchen Grandpa shoveled those leaves into a ditch that ran between his yard and the street. This was the drainage system back then, a way of collecting and removing water before underground sewers were built in neighborhoods. I always stayed outside to watch him do his work, but my parents went inside the house. As the pile grew Grandpa would mischievously ask me if I wanted to jump into the accumulation of green and brown and yellow fronds. Diving into them was like landing in the middle of a forest. I would be surrounded by a soft bed of many colors with a fragrance that was delightful. Besides, it was just plain fun and a secret that me and Grandpa never revealed lest the other adults chastise us and tell us not to do that again.
I repeated the process multiple times and them Grandpa would remove all evidence of my escapade from my hair and my clothing. Then he would light the vegetation and burn it. I’m not sure how environmentally good or bad that was, but I am certain that the aroma of those leaves was incredibly nice. Often there would be other neighbors performing the same task and so there would be little fires filling the air with a smoky perfume. The people called out from next door or across the street to say hello to me and my grandfather or to ask how the family was doing. It felt quite special and made me proud that so many folks seemed to really like my grandfather.
Eventually Grandma would finish her cooking and call us inside. We’d gather around her big mahogany table and devour her dishes while talking and laughing. She was a remarkable cook. Everything she made tasted so good. I still compare her dishes to those of others and few have ever seemed better than hers. We’d follow up our dinner with homemade pie or strawberry shortcake and then retire to the living room to talk some more.
I don’t know why those visits in the fall were my favorite. The summers were always so hot that we rarely ventured beyond the cooling breezes of the big box fan on the front porch. The winters were cold and kept us inside. In the spring everything was blooming again but there was no work to do like gathering leaves, and so in every season besides fall the special moments of fun with Grandpa were fewer and less exciting than when I got to jump into a bed of leaves.
So many good things seem to happen to me in the fall or the weeks leading up to it. My father and my husband and my first grandchild were all born in September. October celebrates four of my grandchildren and a nephew and one of my very dearest friends. It is also the month of my wedding anniversary. The Houston Garden Club Bulb and Plant Mart and Halloween are regulars on my October calendar and the weather really begins to bring the kind of chill that I prefer over the usual tropical warmth where I live. In November I celebrate my birthday and treat myself to a slice of pumpkin cheesecake. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year. Through it all I often think of being five years old again and playing in the leaves while my grandfather laughed at my antics.
Grandpa was generally a serious man. He certainly liked to laugh and tell a tall tale or two but he rarely behaved in the impish way that he did on the fall days of leaf burning. I suspect that he left his weekly task for Sundays because he knew that I was coming and he wanted to be ready for our little game. From the joy on his face I would surmise that he relished it as much as I always did. I wish I had thought to one day tell him how much those times had meant to me.
There is a meme that explains signs of love that are sometimes more powerful that voicing the words. Someone calling to make sure that one got home safely is surely a clear indication of love. Grandpa creating that sweet little moment for me was his way of letting me know how much he cared.
I don’t recall my grandfather ever actually saying that he loved me, but he didn’t have to do so because I understood from everything he did for more that his love was deep. It’s funny how we remember the times when people made us feel special, no matter how young we may have been when they happened. Grandpa would become a source of wisdom and comfort for me over time, but more than anything else I’d still love to be next to him while he raked the hundreds of leaves that covered his yard and then see the grin on his face as he dared me to dive right into the middle of the pile. I still hear his laughter and feel his love.