“Stop that, you’ll ruin your shoes!”
My grandmother repeatedly chastised me every autumn, but I couldn’t care less. All it did was teach me to save that sort of behaviour for when she wasn’t around to notice it and get angry. Even now, when I care about my shoes perhaps more than I should, I still drag my feet through fallen leaves, the way I did as a child.
Some see death and decay in autumnal colours and fallen leaves. I see colour, beauty and the promise of renewal. And there’s something about dragging your feet through a thick layer of freshly fallen crunchy leaves, a sort of childish joy, a promise of warmth and safety in spite of momentary cold and loss… and it’s sooo much fun!
Photos of “now”, memories of “then”… because I think we could all do with some simple silly childish joy. I put on an older pair of comfy bots last week and off I was, in search of autumn colours and dusty fallen leaves to mess up my footwear. I did manage not to jump into that pile of leaves though, the way I would have done back then, without a second thought… after all, I am a serious respectable adult these days, right? Oh well… as I am now confined to my home, staring at the cold yet sunny late autumn day outside, I can’t help wondering what would be so wrong with some harmless not-so-serious fun, like jumping into a pile of dusty leaves.
Of course, back then the idea of not being allowed to go out on a day like this was unthinkable. Hell, it was unthinkable only a year ago… For us, children, autumn was full of possibilities when it came to inventing fun games, and fallen leaves played a relevant part. Each autumn, we tried to find the most unusual and colourful ones, and collected them. Friendships developed as we gathered piles of fallen leaves, trying to put up what to us seemed like fortress walls. Crushes would later on flourish as we had dead leaves fights – much like snow ball fights – or pushed each other into massive piles of colourful leaves. We went home covered in dust from head to toe, but happy… unlike the serious grownups who had to deal with the messy aftermath of autumn fun and games. Even for us, city children, outside was the place to be, while inside often felt like a punishment.
Yearly autumn school trips were a given in primary school, I remember… We hated our teacher’s request to observe nature, take notes and come up with various figures of speech to use in the composition we had to write when we returned, but we loved the trip and the time spent together outdoors. While it was one of the best moments for us, children, I’m fairly sure our teacher regretted allowing us to have a picnic between the trees, at the edge of a forest, that one year… Let’s just say that getting all of us back into the bus was not an easy task.
As I mentioned before, when I’m having a particularly hard time dealing with the on-going pandemic, I try to remind myself not only how much harder others have it, but also how much worse it could have been for me, had the timing been different. While there were times in my adult life when I have no idea how I could have made it through such a situation, I think – emotionally speaking – it would have been the most difficult to deal with such an experience as a child or teenager. Not having grown up in a typical family, I found my balance, hope and sanity in my group of close friends.
We all needed to escape our toxic dysfunctional homes, as we were each other’s support system in a way our parents or grandparents could not or didn’t want to be. And since it was the ‘90s, we could only exist for each other in real life, body and soul, without much technological help. Proximity forged relationships and was key in providing support. I can say with certainty the teenager I was would have eventually broken the rules, needing to escape; I can also say with certainty she would have been torn, broken and scared knowing that meant putting her grandparents at risk. So when some people tend to be extremely harsh with adolescents breaking some of the quarantine rules, I can’t help thinking what a nightmare this would have been for me and my friends, at that age. Let’s not forget that not all homes are warm and not all families, loving and supportive, even if they might look perfect from the outside…
So while this autumn is far from easy, as the wind stirs orange leaves and bittersweet memories, I am thankful I didn’t have to go through this experience at a time when life was still not entirely my own. Thank you, Amy (the host of this week’s Lens-Artists challenge – Now and Then), for this gentle nudge to think of autumns past.
Stay safe, everyone!