18 November, 2010, 5:01 p.m, and the sun is already setting.
I walk up the street to play with Three (Years Old) and Five (Years Old).
Three has on a cherry red puffer jacket.
“You’re looking very cute today,” I tell Three.
“I’m four years old,” says Three. And I realize that Three is now Four.
(Pause. That means Three is no more, and Four is not a baby. Oh, my.)
“You can rake leaves,” says Five, handing me a rake.
“Thank you.” And I begin.
“Raking is a very special thing,” Five continues.
“Because when leaves are on the grass, the sun can’t get on the grass. So we have to get the leaves off.”
rrrrake, rrrake, rrrake …
“Look at the sky,” I tell them. “It’s the same color as the tree.” Bright red and yellow. The yard grays as the sun wanes.
“It’s like the tree is making the sky,” Five observes. “Can we jump in the leaves?”
They run with expressions of unparalleled delight. As Four dashes to the leaves, I swing him up in the air and toss him into the pile. He laughs.
Five stares at the ground glumly.
“I let go of my Silly Band when I jumped.”
“Well, shall we look for it?”
“No. We’ll never find it.” Despite the odds, Five digs like a puppy in the pile, then gets distracted.
“Look at the moon,” Four commands. “It’s foggy. And it looks like the sun.”
“That’s right. It’s pretty, isn’t it?”
Eight and a Half strides out the front door.
“What have you been up to?” I ask.
“Reading what? Encyclopedia Brown?” (I would have if I were Eight and a Half. Encyclopedia Brown, whose name is actually Leroy…)
“No. A book about Legos.”
(And I recall that my brother once mentioned that there are no such things as “Legos.” Only “Lego elements.”)
They play and play, and the yard turns charcoal, then black, causing me to reflect on how you can always tell in movies whether the film was shot at night or digitally darkened.
“Can I have a piggyback ride?” Four inquires.
“Why, yes, of course!” I swing him up to my shoulders and we begin the parade behind the van, down the driveway, across the yard, around the tree. We stop to admire the twilight sky.
“Watch the moon!” he commands again. “It’s disappearing!”
“And coming back!” The glowing orb emerges again from behind a cloud. As we walk, he lays his head on my shoulder.
“Are you falling asleep?” I ask.
By now Five is clamoring, so he gets a turn. We circle the yard again.
“I’m dripping,” he informs me.
“I’m falling off your back.” (Not as grave as I feared.) He gets a better hold on my shoulders and we walk on.
“Are we going to march around the world?” he asks.
I consider the question for a moment. Depends how big your world is. My world, no. His … probably.
“Well, no, but we’ll march around the yard,” I tell him brightly.
Four has discovered that leaves are like confetti. He tosses red sugar maple handfuls as high as he can — about four feet — and yells “Kin-fetti!” every time.
The street is not golden any more, but I can see the porch light shining in front of our house.
A girl in a pink teddy bear sweater with thick brown bangs. A small boy with very round glasses. Two older boys with the clothing of the late nineties.
Her eyes are shut laughing. They are all laughing, buried to their necks in leaves.
The leaf pile is enormous in her eyes, huge because Ryan and Matt both helped rake it. There is nothing quite like the feeling of running, tripping down the hill behind the house, leaping into a pile that is slightly flattened because of all the running and jumping. Every so often, she looks up at the kitchen window to make sure Mom has seen the pile. Then she and Evan run up the hill again.
Now there is no leaf pile to be seen from the kitchen window, but there is a picture of Eleven, Nine, Five, and Three playing in the pile they raked more than a decade ago.
I was Five.