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Blue Jays and Burning Leaves

Blue Jays remind me of September. They are rambunctious this time of year and their jeering in the trees makes me think of teenagers yelling across a crowded high school cafeteria.

When I hear that Blue Jay yell I am reminded of sitting on my front porch while the steam rises from my coffee mug on a late September morning. The sun is angled a little closer to the ground while it is on the rise. There is a briskness to the air that was not there two weeks ago. The light in the sky seems more muted. It is as if the impending cold of winter had pushed into the edges of the neighborhood and is holding back the full light of the sun. I can smell the leaves as they fall from the branches.

There is a smell of youth in the leaves. The Sundays when I would go out into the yard with my Dad and throw the football while he raked leaves. I would be diving into leaf piles pretending I was making a catch in the corner of the end zone.

Sunday afternoons would bring the smell of burning leaves to the neighborhood. The fathers would be outside before the football game to clear the front yard of the oak and maple leaves. In this memory my Dad is younger than I am now.

What was he thinking while he raked leaves in his running sneakers and corduroy pants? Did he have the same fears about me that I have about my son today? Was he scared that the cancer was going to come back and leave his eight year old son without a father? Or was he thinking about the football game and wondering if the Patriots were going to have a good team this year.

What did he think about me when I ran through the piles of leaves in my number 32 jersey? Was he angry at me for messing up his piles? Or was he smiling and thinking back to the time when he was my age and he ran through piles of leaves on a Sunday afternoon?

People don’t burn leaves so much anymore. I guess the risk of fire and smoke in the yard may not sit well with the neighbors. Sometimes I put some fallen leaves in my fire pit and let them burn so the smell will transport me back to when I was a kid.

Were things better when I was a kid? I’m not sure. Memories like this one of burning leaves can make me think that is the case. But I don’t know if things were better or if they were just different. I had different things that made me happy-like throwing a football around the yard and jumping in a pile of leaves. If it made me happy then, what is to stop me from doing that today and seeing if it still makes me happy?

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