When I awoke this morning and stepped out on my deck, there was a chill in the air. It hadn't frosted last night but came very close. There is that fall smell in the air, the leaves are turning color and starting to drift to the ground. As always, the first signs of fall bring me back to my childhood in Nora Springs, Iowa.*
One thing I remember the most about this time of year is all the maple trees and the great color we always enjoyed in September and October. The street that passes the school house was lined on both sides with large maple trees with some oaks scattered in between. I remember walking home from school on those warm sunny afternoons of so long ago, wading up to my knees in the fallen leaves. We used to make great piles of them and jump and hide in those great masses of color.
Another favorite fall pastime was the gathering of chestnuts and acorns. There was a large horse chestnut tree across the street from our school, it stood in the front yard of the Percy Hartwell home. These were always prized items to fill up your pockets. Why we collected them I don't remember. What I do remember is Mother making me empty my pockets every night when I got home!
Our school in those days had very large windows, it was so hard to keep your mind on lessons when the great fall weather was going on outside. I remember one especially beautiful day in 1950; I was in Miss Wyborney's fifth grade class. She was a young, twenty three-year old, woman with dark hair and snapping black eyes. She was also a rebel for those days; you never knew what she would do next. While the other teachers would dismiss class row by row at the end of the day, Miss Wyborney would simply say, "Scram"!
On this particular day after reprimanding several of her students to keep their eyes on their books instead of looking out the window, she surprised us all by telling us to close our books and put them away. "Nobody is getting any work done this afternoon so we might as well go outside and enjoy this great day." What a great afternoon that was. We walked from one end of the town to the other, singing, laughing and shuffling in the leaves. People were out in their yards raking leaves and could not believe their eyes. I think people thought kids belonged in school, not out running around on a school day.
That a teacher took the time out from class to teach children to appreciate the beauty of nature is one of my greatest childhood memories.
The great old horse chestnut tree is gone but many of the maple and oak trees still line the street leading to our school. I think this fall, I will take one afternoon off, I will walk that same walk we took that day half a century ago.
Isn't it great there are still some things that haven't changed?