There’s something about an autumn leaf that makes picking it up and taking it home hard to resist.
My mother should have been a naturalist. Her knowledge of birds, trees, flowers, and animals was wide, and she collected specimens like a museum curator. And she never met a fall leaf she didn’t like.
When we went for walks together in the Octobers of the past we brought home leaves and pressed them between sheets of waxed paper. To this day I still find her handiwork gracing the pages of many of the big books in the house. In summer she did the same with flowers. Her letters to me in Alaska included dried field flowers she picked – buttercups, Queen Anne’s Lace, cornflowers. She sent me feathers, flowers, and reports about the flora and fauna activity on Whirlwind Hill.
My grandson Henry inherited her love of collecting. He picks up treasures everywhere and proudly displays them on the shelves of his room. So on a fall Saturday I suggested we go out and collect some autumn leaves. We carried a brown paper bag with handles and put in the leaves one by one as each was discovered on sidewalk or grass. Every time we thought that maybe we had gathered enough Henry said, “I want to stop, but I just can’t help myself!” With a promise of cookies and milk for him and a cup of tea for me, we took our bounty home and spread it out on a cloth.
The colors were vibrant. I thought we should paint some portraits of the best leaves, but Henry wanted to do leaf rubbings. I had never done a leaf rubbing, so he showed me how. What a treat it is to have a grandchild teach an old timer a new trick. We tried to fill the page with interesting shapes. We weren’t always successful, but in the end were happy with our project. And, of course, we followed my mother’s example and pressed a few leaves between the pages of books, maybe to be found in the future by Henry’s own children.
On Monday: Ghosts