Ryan Trares: Unbe-leaf-able

Who knew yard work could be so much fun?

Yet there Anthony was, rake in hand, clearing the blanket of yellow, red and orange leaves covering the lawn.

I’ve never minded working outside the house. Our gardens are a great way to clear my mind, to get some fresh air while digging in the dirt planting new flowers or weeding around our vegetables. Even on a hot July day, there’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with the work.

Cutting the lawn is the same way — a time to be with my thoughts while mindlessly pushing our mower back and forth.

But I’ll admit, I’ve never been a fan of raking leaves. When I was growing up, our home backed up against a wooded creek area filled with cottonwood and oak trees. In our own backyard, we had two stately maples forming a canopy over the grass.

And it seemed like every weekend from October into November, we were out there, rakes in hand, cleaning up the abundance of leaves that just would not stop falling. I’d have blisters on my hands, sore arms and shoulders, even an aching back — not what you’d expect as a tween or teenager.

The house my wife and I moved into was different. Built in a new subdivision, there were few trees to speak of. Though I missed the shade they provided, it also meant that raking had become a non-existent problem.

But over time, the trees we did have grew. A red maple now spreads shade over most of the front yard, and we planted a silver maple in the back, which has grown to be as high as our roof. Raking is back on the itinerary.

I don’t mind, though. I’ve found a willing and able helper in Anthony.

When he saw the leaves falling in bunches last week, he made me promise not to do any raking until he was with me. This was less an altruistic offer to help and more to ensure he didn’t miss one of his favorite fall-time traditions.

This kid loves to jump in piles of leaves. No pile is too small; if there is even a clump piled in the yard, he’ll get in a runners stance, count down to three and sprint across the grass before launching into the air. Exploding in a cloud of giggles and bits of dried leaves, he’ll roll around and make “leaf angels” before getting up, restructuring the pile and doing it all over again.

Anthony was visiting his grandma and grandpa last weekend, so I had to wait to clean up the yard until after picking him up on Sunday. As soon as he climbed in the car, his first question was, “You didn’t rake the leaves, did you?”

After assuring him that I didn’t touch a thing, he could barely contain himself on the drive home. We pulled into the driveway, and he immediately went for his rake.

Together, we gathered all the leaves in a big pile. Once it was appropriately large enough, we stopped, and I turned to him saying, “You’re up.” He bounced around the yard before lining up for a big jump.

We jumped and played until it got dark. Anthony made a leaf fort, wrote his name in leaves and made a leaf “donut” to leap into the middle of. By the end, we both had leaves in our shirts, in our hair and in our shoes. We couldn’t have cared less.

I finally had to rake up the backyard, much to Anthony’s dismay.

Now he’s just watching the front maple tree, waiting to do it all over again.

Ryan Trares is a senior reporter and columnist for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected].