BBK bails on his photo op; she rakes leaves for mountain

Sydney Craft Rozen

I want to talk about the leaves,” my 5-year-old granddaughter announced during a surprise phone call last weekend. Maybe she knew I love talking about leaves in October, the newly fallen yellow, orange and red ones, and the crispy ones that have aged and darkened to copper and wine-black. But an ode to autumn wasn’t on Sammy’s list of conversational topics that day. She wanted to know when she, her older sister and two older brothers would be jumping into the leaves at our house. A few years before Sammy was born, my husband, Lee, stood in the middle of our yard and considered the carpet of maple and oak leaves that would need raking soon. The grandkids would love this, he said. We could have everybody come over and then turn the kids loose. He and our son-in-law raked two tall, rounded heaps of leaves, one below the full-branched maple tree in our side yard and the other under the grand, burgundy-leafed maple in the front yard. Mountains of leaves, I thought as we gathered the gang for what became our family’s first annual Leaf Mountain Day.

I assured Sammy that the leaping would happen as soon as enough leaves fell so that Grandpa could rake them into the shape of a kid-size mountain. I felt a wash of relief when she didn’t ask about the big tree, our magnificent but diseased oak, which had to be taken down this summer. Its absence not only still makes us sad, but also means that Leaf Mountain will lose about a third of its stockpile. Sammy instead launched straight into a monologue, beginning with a play-by-play of her kindergarten homework, and then winding us through the Halloween labyrinth of her imagination. She ad-libbed the saga of a tight-knit group of plastic skeletons who live at her house. The Bones family includes a mom, dad, and two children, as well as Baby Bones, who is currently missing, but suspected to be trapped under a landfall of costumes in a closet downstairs. Just as I’d sorted out this motley crew, Sammy introduced another relative, Uncle Bones, who is made of paper, not plastic, and has a phone voice remarkably similar to my granddaughter’s, except deeper and spookier.

When our call ended, I realized that I think of autumn as the season of deep colors in the leaves and the sky, newly crisp air, and the wool cap and fleece jacket I needed when I harvested the beans earlier this week. For our grandchildren, though, fall is an active season of riding bikes through crunchy leaves, decorating the house in early October, setting solar-powered pumpkin and skeleton lights in the yard, and choosing costumes for the big night. Last year, because of the rapidly spreading coronavirus, the kids stayed cozy and safe at home, entering a magical Halloween land, which our daughter and son-in-law — in wigs and creaky voices — created for them in different rooms of the house. This year, all four of them will be out trick-or-treating, safely masked. Sammy will be a Halloween unicorn, and maybe the other kids will rummage through the costume closet beforehand, looking for a cape or a wand or bat wings. Maybe then, somebody will find Baby Bones.

Craft Rozen’s next column will be published the day before Halloween and include breaking news from her pumpkin patch. Longtime readers might already be shaking their heads. Email her at scraftroze@aol.com

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