If I am repaired, can we meet again for the first time, in all of the places I have feared to go, and then, again, in all of the places I will have forgotten, if I am repaired?



Saturday, November 20, 2010

'First Rake'

There are three rakes in the tool shed: Grandfather’s, mine and a new rake for Aaron, my little brother. Aaron is five. It’s his first year raking leaves at Grandfather’s.

     The rakes are hung up on the wall in the back of the shed with the shovels and posthole digger. Aaron’s is a metal rake that Grandfather bought at Murphy’s Hardware, shiny and green. I take it down for him. It has two springs beneath the fan. “For extra snap,” I tell Aaron. “You’ll see.” It’s hard to explain raking. You learn quicker by doing it.

     This is my third year raking at Gramps. I started when I was Aaron’s age. My rake was my father’s when he was a boy. It’s bamboo, like Gramps. The fingers are anyway, long strips of it, bent at the end. Gramps says the handle is Rock Maple though. He has a hollow piece of bamboo with new fingers in it, to replace any that break. But I’ve never seen one break. Bamboo is strong.

     My rake feels lighter than Aaron’s, I notice, when I take it down from the wall; even though its fan is wider. Gramp’s rake is even bigger than mine. It’ll really clear some leaves.

     Out in the yard, Aaron is already experimenting. He’s choking his rake, holding it too close to the fan and digging a hole in the yard of leaves. His new metal rake is noisy. That’s going to take some getting used to.

     “What ya doin’ little man?” Grandfather said, coming out of the house carrying his jacket.

      “Rakin!” Aaron replies.

     “I can see that,” Grandfather said, shrugging his jacket on.

     I hand Gramps his rake.

     “Thank you son,” he says. “What do you say we show this little brother of yours how it’s done?”

     Grandfather has seven Sugar Maples, two Water Maples three Cherries and a Tulip Poplar in his yard. If that's not enough leaves, there's the Oak and Hickory leaves too, that are bigger than a man’s hand and red as blood, blown onto the yard from the stand of timber across the road.

     There's a light breeze coming down from the north. “We’ll rake with the wind," Grandfather says, "let it do some of the work for us.”

     The three of us wade through the brittle leaves up to the north end of the yard.
     Grandfather showed Aaron how to use his noisy, clacking metal rake—where to keep his hands. We rake in a line, the bamboo fingers of my rake scratching the earth in whispers, fssst, fssst, fssst. Aaron’s hands always work back down to the head of his rake. “He looks like he’s hoeing a garden,” Grandfather says, and we laugh. I looked that way once too.

     We rake the leaves into enormous piles. Some we’ll burn, some we’ll put on a big tarp, later and drag out to the chicken pen.

     The sun is low in the sky all day this time of year. Our shadows are long, stretching across the yard like it's late in the afternoon.“You tell the time by the temperature in fall. Not by the sun like you do in summer,” Grandfather said. “When you feel a chill coming on, it’s near time to pick up and get ready for supper.”

     It was near enough time to pick up that Grandfather said Aaron and I could play in the leaves until supper, as soon as we put our tools away.

     I showed Aaron how to hang his rake back. Then we picked the biggest pile of leaves and I showed him how to fall backward into it, then how to dive into it. We stuffed our jackets full of leaves to make muscles and tunneled through the pile like moles. We wrestled and bumped our heads. Aaron almost cried. I wouldn’t have blamed him. It hurt awful. Then we lay on our backs in the big pile and watched the only cloud in the sky, our warm breath, white puffs. I could feel the chill setting in, on my cheeks, my nose.

     “It’s almost supper time,” I told Aaron.

     “I know,” he said, “I know.”


  1. *sigh* I miss those days of playing in the leaves, making tunnels and jumping into the piles. You brought my childhood memories back to life; thank you for that!

  2. Is this an exercise too or just a marvellous memory?

  3. Emmyy... you are welcome, thanks for reading.


    Not an exercise or a marvelous memory... just stuff I was thinking about while out raking leaves yesterday and jotted down this morning so I wouldn't forget... make-believe, just like everything else around here.

  4. Sorry Emmy for the extra Y... I was going to say, any fall you are missing leaves, you are more than welcome to come rake.


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