It’s late April. The middle of the school week. Mum’s let me have the day off. I’m not sick, and I’m not in trouble.
I’m going to Omi’s house to rake the leaves.
The sky is overcast. Air is chilly. And the branches of the trees, the liquid ambers and the Japanese maples, are almost bare.
I trot around the backyard kicking crunchy brown leaves which line the ground like a carpet. The leaves go shush-shush against my worn black shoes. I breathe the scent of the outside world, earthy and fresh.
Two old rakes lean up against the dark brown paling fence and I can hear the sound of the neighbour’s dog on the other side. A pile of leaves has been heaped up neatly nearby. Opa has started without me.
Together, Omi and I organise the rest of the leaves into a bigger pile in the middle of the yard. The rake is too big for me to manoeuvre so I use my hands to collect them, clutching clumps between my palms, strays floating to the ground as I traipse back and forth.
The pile we have made is now as high as my waist. Snug in her hand-knitted woolly jumper, Omi urges me to jump in.
I run. Leaves burst into the chilly air as I bound into the pile. Omi is laughing and claps her hands as she watches from the side, encouraging me to roll around, dismantling the pile we had arranged so tidily just minutes ago.
I sit up, leaves stuck to my coat, the knees of my jeans damp. The sky strongly suggests rain and Omi returns the rake to its place leaning against the fence.
The breeze whistles in my ears. Omi beckons me down the concrete steps past the flowerless garden beds.
It’s time to go inside.
There are fat pumpkins sitting outside houses. Wreaths made of orange leaves hang on front doors.
The morning news has a special segment for the “Fall Foliage” report. A reporter gestures at a map shaded in different colours; green, yellow, orange, scarlet. They talk of “leaf peepers” meandering along scenic byways and warn it might be difficult to get accommodation in some towns.
Everything tastes and smells of pumpkin spice – the draught beer I order at the brewpub, the oversize macchiato from Starbucks, the lit candle in the hotel lobby. The department stores, the diners & cafes, the foaming soap for sale in the kitschy gift shop.
We all marvel at the colour of the trees, on the hillside, lining the roadway, taking photos with our phones, forgetting to stop and look with our eyes instead of through the screen.
And despite the brightness of the red, orange, yellow we still apply the “vivid” filter before posting on our social media so that no one can doubt how wonderful the colours actually are. The heart-eye emojis and comments stream in.
Today, this is Fall.