Leaves of Folly
Richard Blake, Lafayette, CO
From Dads Behaving DADLY 2: 72 More Truths, Tears, and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhood Copyright © 2015 Motivational Press. Reprinted with permission. By Hogan Hilling and Al Watts.
The neighbors think I am crazy. There are a host of my quirky behaviors that could account for this opinion, but today’s activity with my children surely confirms any suspicions they may already have. Corinne, my precocious 3-year-old girl, Eliot, my exuberant 5-year-old boy, and I, a middle-forties full-time at-home dad, are knocking on our neighbors’ doors asking them if we can rake their leaves.
“How much?” each neighbor asks.
“We don’t need any money,” our little triad says in unison.
“What do you want our leaves for?” they respond, as if we are vacuum salespeople offering a no-obligation free house cleaning but who fail to mention it comes with an excruciatingly long presentation on the benefits of their product.
Corinne begins to bounce up and down and shouts, “We want them to make a leaf pile!”
The Aspen trees that once encircled the small backyard in our slice of suburbia have been slowly dying over the last few years, leaving only an oak and spruce tree standing. What had been a glorious cache of falling leaves in previous falls had trickled to near nothing. Despite their young age, Eliot and Corinne already had indelible and fond memories of jumping into leaf piles during our yard’s golden age.
Ever since the swelter of summer switched abruptly to the chill of fall, Corinne and Eliot have been asking when we will have a leaf pile so they can play. I had been stalling for weeks with the simple and noncommittal, “I don’t know.” Now that the neighborhood yards are two or more inches deep in crispy, leafy gold, I can put them off no longer. Though I have explained many times we do not have enough trees in our yard to generate the most basically serviceable leaf pile, the two of them have persisted in their questioning.
I realize the time has come to give a definitive answer, and there is only one possible answer: “How about today?”
“But where will we get the leaves?” asks Eliot. Apparently, my assertions about the lack of leaves in our yard had finally hit home.
“Let’s see if the neighbors will give us their leaves,” I suggest.
Our first two stops at neighbors’ houses yield no success. The third neighbor is much more amenable to our plan but does not want a leaf pile in the middle of her yard because of how it might harm her grass. She suggests we pile the leaves into the street and jump in them there. I am not sure why she thinks having two children leap, full force into a pile of leaves sitting atop an unyielding piece of blacktop seems like a good idea. I instead offer to gather up all her leaves and take them to our yard.
She stares at me in silence, her mind churning out the implications of my suggestion. “You mean, you want to take the leaves from my yard and dump them into your yard because you don’t have enough leaves to rake up in your yard?”
“Yes,” I reply confidently, aware of the lunacy in what I am proposing. I could feel the hope rising from behind me as Eliot and Corinne begin bobbing in place. I break out in sweat, trying to will the word ‘yes’ into the neighbor’s head. She continues, “. . . and then you’ll have to rake them all back up yourself again later?” She is now speaking in the way villainous robots do in B sci-fi movies when they are about to say, “That does not compute!” before exploding.
“Okay,” she slowly agrees, adding “But be careful of the grass.” Glancing down at the brownish blades of her lawn that are occasionally visible through the leafy carpet, I promise we will.
I begin blowing the leaves toward the edge of the yard where Corinne and Eliot, suitably armored in heavy jackets, leather child-sized gloves, ear protection and comparatively miniature goggles, are eagerly waiting to collect our booty into oversized bags.
In short order, my helpers realize an entirely adequate pile of leaves is forming right in front of them and begin jumping into it rather than scooping it up. I remind them the neighbor did not want us playing in her yard and they dutifully return to work.
During our labors, another neighbor emerges with a leaf blower and begins pushing the leaves from his yard out into the street. I take a quick break, asking him if we can have his leaves. He stares at me for a moment and then agrees.
And so the afternoon passes, the kids and I gathering up leaves into bags, hauling those bags into our backyard, dumping them, and returning to get more. Though the pile is now substantial, the lure of more and more leaves with the potential of building a mound that rivals the Tower of Babble keeps driving us from yard to yard.
When the people who live on either side of our shared fence come home and begin raking their yards, we ask them if they would consider dumping their leaves over the fence to us. In both cases, incredulous looks are followed by hesitant agreement and then enthusiastic compliance.
By the time my wife Becca gets home, we now have a pile of leaves as tall as our fence and about twelve feet wide on either side. “Oh boy!” she exclaims as her children run to greet her before dashing full force into the pile for the first time. Becca laughs at their joy, and we stand there, admiring their exuberance as they burrow deep into the mound and disappear, save for their riotous laughter.
Before going in to change out of her work clothes, my wife turns to me and quietly says “You know you’re gonna have to clean all this up, right?”
Richard Blake, a child since birth, provides full-time care for two amazing kids and part-time frustration for a wonderful wife at his centrally located Colorado home. Prior to his current role as master of his domestic domain, Richard held highly skilled but entirely unappreciated positions in academia and corporate America. Brain care specialist Gag Halfrunt had this addition to Mr. Blake’s biography: “Vell, Richard’s just zis guy, you know?”
Hogan Hilling is a nationally recognized and OPRAH approved author of 12 published books. Hilling has appeared on Oprah. He is the creator of the DADLY book series and the “#WeLoveDads” and “#WeLoveMoms” Campaigns, which he will launch in early 2018. He is also the owner of Dad Marketing, a first of its kind consultation firm on how to market to dads. He is also the founder of United We Parent. Hilling is also the author of the DADLY book series and first of its kind books. The first book is about marketing to dads “DADLY Dollar$” and two coffee table books that feature dads and moms. “DADLY Dads: Parents of the 21st Century” and “Amazing Moms: Parents of the 21st Century.” Hilling is the father of three children and lives in southern California.
Originally published in Dads Behaving DADLY 2: 72 More Truths, Tears, and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhood Copyright © 2015 Motivational Press. Reprinted with permission.
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