Confessions of A Leaf Thief

Photo Credit: Alvim Gimarino
             Every year, for the past five autumns, I’ve held dearly to one of our two total family traditions. With only two traditions, thus far, to miss one would be criminal. This particular custom started shortly after my fourth daughter was born. Picture this:

 Autumn and all its colorful glory paint a radiant frame around our yard. Sometimes we feel like we live in a miniature forest since maples, pines, and oaks border three sides of our property. Which not only creates beauty, but a heck of a lot of yard work. Every year. This particular year, I rake for hours, only to be bombarded my three sets of running legs that crash into my neatly gathered mountain. 
“Leaf Pile!” squeal my girls, right before their little bodies lunged and then burrow into the fallen foliage. Repeat. 
The OCD part of my brain wants to scream, “STOP! Let’s jump softly so we [meaning I] don’t have to gather all the leaves, again!” Unfortunately, this response simply defies the basic code of childhood. I’ll be labelled J.K. Mom [“Joy-Kill” not “Just Kidding”], and no one wants that title. Not when you already carry a few labels immune to traditional erasers.
Anyway, as I stand to the side, holding up my weary arms with the rake, I revel in the girls’ repeat launches into the mound of fall leaves. Light bulb moment! I find my camera and take a few video clips of their antics and then switch over to take still shots. That’s when my second tradition takes birth. I ask the girls to lay down in the pile with their heads touching. Then I fish my newborn out of her bouncy and placed her gently in the missing spot. Perfect. Four precious faces on a bed of enveloping yellows and browns.
Except… The yellows and browns look rather dingy and blah. I look around and notic my neighbor’s yard has a tree that looked like it is on fire. The reds and oranges blend to make the perfect Crayola colors and when the sun’s rays hit the branches, flames glisten against the blue sky. 
Is it me, or do you a feel a confession coming on? Uhhhh…That would be a yes. 
So, I tell the girls, “Stay put and make sure the baby doesn’t eat any leaves. I’ll be right back.”
I run over to my the neighbor’s yard with my rake while justifying the execution of a perfectly good deed.Yes! She’ll have this many less leaves to dispose of. To classify this tiny act as theft would be absurd. 
I race back to the girls, balancing plenty of pretty red and orange leaves on my rake, leaving a trail behind me. If they search for the culprit, I do a terrible job covering my tracks. Back in my own yard, I tell the girls to get up and pick up the babe. Then dump my spoils on top of the pile and reassemble their heads for the perfect fall shot. And perfect it is.  
The only downside occurrs when the baby cries all night, on and off, and we can’t figure out why. We change her diaper. Twice. Feed her. Burp her. No relief. The wailing persists. Exhauted when the sun rises, hubby discovers a leaf fragment in her footsie while taking off her sleeper. Poor baby! Bad Mommy. Besides this minor glitch, a tradition is born.
Every year since, when the majority of the trees lay bear above, we gather the leaves, do our jumps and take our pics, and print them on two of my favorite pages in our annual Shutterfly photo books. 
And each year, I check over my shoulder before making my move. Okay, so I admit I have yet to ask for the leaves from my neighbor’s yard. 
This year poses no differently, except that my kids are getting older.
“Mom! What are you doing in the neighbor’s yard?” My oldest calls out.
“Shhhhh. I’ll be right back. You stay over there.”

“Mom? Are you taking their leaves? Mom? Why are you stealing the neighbor’s leaves?” Now two are next to me. This looks very suspicious. Hello? Trespassing.
“Get back! Someone might see us.”
“Mom? Are you doing something wrong? Why are you telling us to go back?” My second daughter asks with confusion across her brows.

“Never mind. Let’s get outta here before someone catches us.”
We scurry back to our yard and as I set up the girls’ heads, a gnawing feeling grows in my stomach. What am I teaching my kids? Is there no limit to what I’ll do for a good photograph? Now when the girls look at this picture, the cat’s leaving this bag for sure. I can just hear it now.
My Mom: “Wow girls! I love this one with your pretty faces in all the leaves.”
My girls: “Oh Mimi! Those are the leaves that Mom steals every year for our pile to look more colorful.”
My Mom: “RAJDEEP!!!!”
Okay Mom, before you read this, I promise to go over and tell my neighbor. I will apologize profusely and ask for permission to take the leaves…for next year. And, if she says, “No,” I will…find another tree…in another yard. And ask first. Of course!
**Tell the truth. What crazy thing have you done in the name of tradition!?! :)

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4 thoughts on “Confessions of A Leaf Thief

  1. Pingback: Confessions of a Leaf Thief… One Year Later | Rajdeep Paulus