New England Fall

The old maple trees hold bright red leaves at the ends of their branches, like an elegant grandmother extending her arms and holding beautiful gifts.  She will soon give the gifts.  They will fall to the ground and we will rake them into piles and jump into them, throwing them in the air.  We will spend the afternoon rolling around in them, letting them get stuck in our hair and on our clothes.  This New England Fall is glorious.

Do I sound captivated?  Perhaps it’s because I am.  Our new New England town on the outskirts of big-city Boston offers delightful diversions I’ve dreamed of since childhood…

I see our mailman cross the street, dressed in blue shorts and wearing a blue satchel.  He delivers the envelopes and packages on foot, placing them through little slots in doors.  As a child on a farm in rural Virginia, I only ever saw such things in books.  Our mail was put in the mailbox at the end of our driveway by a woman precariously driving her car while sitting in the passenger seat, stretching her left arm to reach the steering wheel and her left leg to reach the gas pedal.  Back then, I stared at illustrations of uniformed postmen and women, smiling at children playing hopscotch on sidewalks, and thought they lived in an enchanted world.

These childhood books pictured for me a utopian urban society where children walked to school and crossing guards helped them to cross the street.  Where I was living, of course, there were no streets.  There were only roads, and no one stepped out into the middle of them to help you get across.  You either stayed away from the road because your mother told you it was dangerous, or you looked up and down the road before running, still scared to be hit by someone tearing around the blind curve at 50 mph.

Today I walk my daughter to school on the sidewalk, pulling our little dog, Wally, on a leash behind us.  Michelle the Crossing Guard holds up a stop sign as we cross the street.  Granted, the fictional crossing guards didn’t scream in a thick Boston accent, “Aye! Whatahyadoin’!!!???” at cars trying to scoot past their authority, but the enchantment still holds.  I smile to myself, feeling as if I’ve arrived in my childhood version of city heaven.