In Chicago, leaves are everywhere right now.
My neighborhood is composed of a grid of tree-lined streets, so autumn does a number on us. People don’t even bother to dispose of the leaves until the trees have rendered themselves completely bare.
That time is now. The soundtrack of the neighborhood consists of leaf blowers, rakes and shovels scraping against sidewalks, and the wrestling of plastic and paper lawn bags.
As I was walking the dog with my daughter (I often wonder if the dog is actually walking us, but that’s for another post), I saw a lawn crew out in front of a house the next block over with a truck bed full of leaves. I mean, this truck had makeshift particle board walls on each side of the bed about seven feet high and it was filled to the brim, bursting with leaves.
“Look, Rory,” I said. “See all those leaves in that truck? Crazy, right?”
Suddenly, I noticed a look of deep concern on her face. Which was odd. (Because I was expecting something like, Wow, Dad… But, no.)
“Why are they doing that?” she asked.
“They’re picking up all of those people’s leaves.”
“But why? That’s not very nice.”
Ok, now I started to see what was going on. She continued…
“It’s not nice of those people to take that person’s leaves. Those leaves don’t belong to them.”
See, Rory is a collector. When she sees a stick that catches her eye, it’s harder to pull her away from that than it is the Elsa doll at Target. And her leaf collection is impressive. We have dry leaf particles in every crease and seam of every chair and sofa in this house.
So in Rory’s eyes, these people weren’t providing a service, they were burglarizing that person in broad daylight.
All of a sudden, I felt horrible. I mean, really… Why get rid of the leaves? Why isn’t that family in that house out in the yard laughing and playing and rolling around in them? Why aren’t they collecting them as they should — as Rory does?
Why dispose so hastily of something so special?
The value of a thing really does lie in the eye of the beholder. And when you’re four, the simpler and closer to the earth it is, sometimes, the better.
One of the many things I pray doesn’t change much as she grows older.