My day has begun. Though it be dark. Though it be early. Though I be sleepy. There be dragons here. There be dragon breath would be more accurate. Enough goofin' with the bees. Tell me what you sees...
What catches my eye on days invaded by the cold nip of the season is the leaves when we are graced with the changing of green to red and gold. In the cold of yesterday's morning I saw leaves of brilliant yellow dancing in the breeze. A blanket of crimson lay across my driveway when I turned in from the street. As those leaves scattered in the air currents created by my car's approach, I drifted into a child's search for all manner of colored leaves in a past school assignment.
Our second grade teacher sat at her desk while we colored pictures of Jack Frost and pumpkins. She was looking out the classroom windows up into the trees that surrounded the school when her eyes snapped to the rows of desks before her.
"Attention children," she said.
We looked up from our crayons. My attention was immediately taken by the pigtail of the girl sitting in front of me. I reached slowly for it. Just one pull on that rope of hair. She always yelled ouch when I yanked on it. Almost within reach of my chubby fingers, I sat upright with the words, "Let go Janie's pigtail, Rickey. Now I want you all to listen because I have decided on your homework assignment."
The groans were thick amongst us.
"But it's Thanksgiving, teacher. We won't have time for homework. We're going to grandma's. Dad's taking us to Georgia." The excuses piled up in response to the dreaded word homework. It was third grade. We were just kids. We had more important things to do than memorize times tables or Presidents or states and capitals.
"Yes, it will be a long weekend for Thanksgiving but you'll like this homework."
The groans that always followed her use of that word filled the classroom again.
"What I want you to do is collect as many leaves of differnt colors as you can. One of each color. Then write the name of the tree it came from. It'll be something you can do outside while you are playing. The trees are giving a bounty of color this year since we had that early cold snap. We should take it in and enjoy it since it happens so seldom here in the south." She smiled at us. She looked at me. I almost had Janie's pigtail in my grasp.
I jumped in my seat.
"OK. Go back to your crayons until the bell sounds. And remember as many different colors as you can find."
When the bell rang it was noon on Wednesday before Thanksgiving day. School was out for four and a half days. The school buses were ready for thier passengers. Those who walked were streaming out the gates. Those with bikes met at the rack. We slung our satchels onto our backs, old army surplus bags carried with straps draped over our shoulders.
Richard was there raking his Schwinn out of the parallel bars holding it upright. I grabbed the handlebars of my Columbia and yanked it back releasing the front wheel.
"What do you think of the homework, Rich?"
"Can't be that much to it. Look at all the trees. Lots of leaves. Lots of colors. Shouldn't take too long to find a bunch." He hopped on his bike.
"Hey, wait up!" I yelled as I climbed aboard mine and began to pedal in the soft sand. I caught up at the back gate.
Bikes were wonderful things. So much freedom. So much road covered so quickly. And the wind blowing on your face with the forward motion, it was a kid's dream. On cool days like today our cheeks responded to the cold wind by flowering into a rosy red.
Richard was right. All the trees lining the streets rang riot with color. It'll be a cinch, I thought. Dismissing it thusly I began to pull ahead of Richard. He responded with a burst of speed that took him far ahead of me. His laughter faded into the distance as I turned onto my street. I waved. He waved back. "See ya after Thanksgiving!" I hollered.
His response was lost to me.
The rest of the day was taken up with important things of childhood.
Thursday morning brought with it aromas of the coming feast. These mouthwatering smells were coming from my mother's contributions to that feast at my grandmother's later that day. It was such a pleasant way to be awakened in the early morning.
This was the day of family. The big family of cousins and aunts and uncles came together every year on this day. There were lots of kids. There was lots of noise in our playing. There was quiet when my granddad requested it as he stood in the doorway. We would all bow our heads. When he said, "And bless the little cook," we jumped up to get in line, plate in hand.
We ate. We watched the football games. We ate. We played chase. We ate. We watched more football. We finally circled the round table stacked with pies, cakes and puddings. We ate. We asked for seconds. We ate. We moaned with stomachs tight enough to bounce quarters. We napped. When we awoke we began the cycle again.
Thursday night was spent in oblivion. Friday was spent digesting food from the previous day. Saturday I spent with friends at the Big Oak. Sunday we went to Sunday School. Back home we returned to my grandmother's for final leftovers. I still couldn't look at food. In the evening it came to me. LEAVES! I hadn't collected my leaves! I ran to the door. The sun had already set.
"Gotta go!" I yelled through the slam of the door. Frantically I jumped at limbs to grab a red one and a yellow one. That was two. As the sun continued to diminish I ran from tree to tree trying to distinguish colors. Along the golf course I searched the ground under every tree. Finally I just grabbed a handful of grey leaves and ran home to put them under the light.
The next day as we racked our bikes I asked Richard, "Did you remember to get some leaves?"
"Yeah, wait til you see. I got a rainbow of leaves. It was fun. How about you?"
"I forgot. I got two pretty ones but the rest just turned out brown. I forgot til it was too late."
We all showed our leaves coloered by Jack Frost telling which tree had which color. I think I was the only one who forgot. My red one and yellow one followed by a brown one were not the stellar collection expected of me. Richard had a brilliant showcase of color.
So any autumn that brings an early coldsnap is one in which I take notice of the colors. I take in the richness of mother nature's palette thinking to myself, I will enjoy this in the light of day before the sun settles beyond the western horizon. The kid in me stops and looks too.