Deborah sat in her old white rocking chair. The crisp autumn morning seeped through the blanket covering her jeans. Her pale legs ached slightly against the cold air. She rocked and thought of her younger days. She used to run around the yard and dive with abandon into the leaf piles her father would make. He never fussed at her for destroying his leaf collections. Instead, he would rake them up and invite her to do it again. Instead of the chill aching her bones, the sweaty skin from her play welcomed the fresh air. She had no problem wearing t-shirts and shorts until the first snow arrived.
A smile crept across her lips. She could see her son and daughter laughing and playing in the piles her husband had built. The trees had grown ever larger over the years and so had the number of leaves. The mounds grew to support their three children and two dogs. Harvesting of the leaves was now a two-day affair of laughter, raking, more laughter, and more raking.
Now the yard sat covered with a blanket of crinkled brown leaves, with the occasional patch of yellow. The grass now lay buried under a warm blanket of leaf litter. Deborah’s smile faded. She missed days of her youth. In her hands was the incomplete baby sweater she knitted while she dreamed. A fourth grandchild was due to arrive in just a few months. Was it time for another generation to begin taking the stage? She and James had only just started to settle into adulthood. Deborah’s contemplation broke with the sound of a car pulling into the drive.
It was her oldest son Frank and his three children. They all rolled out of their minivan and waved. Frank popped open the back and his family converged towards the rear. They reappeared with rakes. James walked out the front door on to the porch. “Hey honey, Frank asked if the kids could come over for a leaf party. I told him the yard was theirs.” James sat down in the rocking chair next to Deborah.
Deborah took his hands in both of hers and looked deep into his eyes. “Honey, thank you. How did you know?”
James smiled and kissed her hand. “I don’t know. I guess it’s just instinct after thirty-five years.”
James and Deborah held hands and rocked in their chairs. Frank and his family raked, frolicked and played until the kids could hardly move. The sun began to grow dim, and Deborah went inside to make everyone hot chocolate. She stood at the counter and stirred the chocolate elixir that would soon disappear with the grandchildren and stared off into nothing. Maybe she was no longer the little girl with the father she longed to see again, but seeing her children’s’ children experience her same happiness was somehow sweeter. Past, present, and future all knit together into beautiful memories that would outlive her.