Thursday, November 6, 2008

Diving in

Most people have two sets of grandparents; I was fortunate to have three sets, the extra one acquired not by remarriage but by proximity.

When I was about 9 years old, my family moved from one end of our block to the other; the move, though hardly remarkable in distance, was a vast improvement over the lower-income, high vacancy rental section we previously lived in. The end of the block we moved to was more stable, for the most part, comprised of retired couples who had lived in their homes for well over 30 years.

Our next door neighbors introduced themselves to us well before we even moved into the house; they fussed over both me and my deceptively cute two-year-old sister. They only had one grandson, and they looked forward to having two little girls to spoil. They loved seeing us play out in the yard, acting out small dramas and picking flowers and later playing with our cats. Even if our parents hadn't raised the two of us to be courteous to our elders, I don't think we could have done anything that wasn't precious. They encouraged us to come over anytime, and we did; my sister would frequently go over to swing with the wife on their front porch, sitting on her lap and practically melting in her arms.

The coolest thing they ever did, though, is probably part of why autumn is my favorite season. Because the neighborhood was an older one, many of the trees were massive; three such massive trees were in the stretch of front lawn our homes shared. The husband one fall brought out his leaf blower--not to clear the lawn of all the fallen leaves, but to condense them into one central pile. After doing so, they invited us to come over and play in it.

Know the joy of crunching through a build-up of crispy, crunchy leaves? Multiply that at least tenfold in order to understand the excitement of flinging yourself bodily into a huge pile of leaves, laughing with abandon, and heaving yourself out from underneath them to do it all over again. It's a full sensory experience--the feel of crackling leaves, the smell of them in the crisp air, the chilly nip that you only feel when you pause long enough to register the mild discomfort, the sight of the sky filtered through leaves above you and bare branches further above... There's nothing like it in the world.

It's one of my top favorite memories of childhood.

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