“O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.”
Robert Frost, October
We lived in a cul de sac off West Pleasant Street called “Edgewood,” which consisted of three houses and many acres of land. Our home was spacious. “Five bedrooms, five, bathrooms, and five fireplaces,” my mother used to say.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written about growing up in Claremont, but I think about those days quite a bit, especially at this time of year. Yes, foliage season is upon us, and leaf peepers are everywhere.
Back then, October was my least favorite month. Let me tell you why.
First, the baseball season was over for me. In those pre-playoffs days, the Red Sox weren’t participating in any World Series games, and, starting in 1949, it was almost always the “World Champion” New York Yankees, whose “dynasty” began long before I was born, and extended well into my adulthood. While they always seemed to be playing in the World Series, and winning, the Red Sox were licking their wounds. My first full sentence was “Wait ‘til next year.”
The other reason I dreaded fall was the leaves. I don’t recall that my mother ever talked about how many trees there were out back, but I can tell you it was a lot more than five. I didn’t know the word “deciduous” (annual leaf shedding), or words I recently looked up, “carotenoids” (the orange-yellow pigments), or “anthocyanins” (the red and purple pigments). All I knew was that along with the various colors, those trees produced a limitless number of leaves.
For some reason my mother thought it was my job to do the raking, so I winced every time a red or yellow or orange leaf hit the ground. Picture the cartoon where Charlie Brown glumly holds a rake while Snoopy announces, “I’m hooked on autumn” and jumps gleefully into a pile of leaves. I was Charlie.
My father had to drop out of school in eighth grade to help support his family by “selling bananas on the street” and working at his father’s junkyard. When it came to helping out, you’d think he would have been the one to put demands on me. But I never heard him say anything like, “Joey, it’s time to rake the leaves,” or “I had to do it and so should you.” He probably would have hired someone, but my mother was in charge of raising us.
As for those long-ago leaves, I’m not proud of the fact that I still resent all that raking, but my outlook has changed. Today, I love the many shades of fall. The colors are bright all over Cheshire County, and I haven’t raked a single leaf. I’ve become Snoopy, hooked on autumn.
By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, the Yankees have packed their bags and gone home, while the Red Sox are still playing.