Leaves.

When I was in high school, I was a member of the Key Club. In fact, I served as Vice-President for two years. I have no idea how I got involved in the Key Club, but I vividly remember things like serving at the Kiwanis Valentine’s Day Pancake Breakfast, untangling some of the city’s Christmas lights that were stored in the top floor of a bank, trick-or-treating for IDD, and working on our homecoming float. You know, some service projects, some fun. That’s how high school clubs are, right?

Over the weekend, Mike and I raked leaves. And we raked leaves and then we raked some more. I had no idea that trees had so many leaves. I haven’t lived anywhere with leaves in a really long time, at least not where I had to help rake them. We had a lot of leaves. But our old house had no trees at all and no shade, so I am not complaining about these leaves one single bit. I remember how awesome they were in July and August. Thank you, leaves, for keeping our house a little bit cooler this summer. Now head on out to the curb, please.

When we got started raking, I was about to tell Mike that I had never really raked leaves before (my parents’ house is in the middle of an old cow pasture, so I had more experience with lawnmowers and tractors than I did with rakes), and then picked up the rake and realized that, yes, I had raked leaves before. Every year, the Key Club raked leaves for a little old lady. About twenty of us would show up, and it would take about twenty minutes, which is why I can barely remember it. One thing I also remember is that the first year I went, either my family didn’t have a leaf rake (doubtful, knowing my dad’s propensity to buy tools) or I thought it would be a good idea to take both a leaf rake and a garden rake (it was early on a Saturday morning, perhaps I had poor judgment). Whatever the reason, I ended up using a garden rake to rake leaves at Mrs. Little Old Lady’s house. It was really ineffective. I vividly remember being embarrassed about this. I doubt anyone else noticed.

I was in the Key Club because it would look good on my college transcripts, because my friends were in it, and because, you know, service seems like a good idea or something. If you had asked me at the time, I wouldn’t have thought anything about it other than that. But those were good experiences, raking leaves with my friends (even if I was using a stupid garden rake), sitting on the top floor of the bank in our coats working on those lights, rocking the country club raising money in my poodle skirt and letter sweater, refilling coffee and pancakes for the couples who showed up for breakfast.

Sometimes I have frustrating days with my students. I know, that’s shocking, right? I’m not a parent, but my “kids” give me a hard time, too. It is an awfully big responsibility, being a teacher. What I try to remember is that they might not think much of what we are doing now, but that they might look back at it ten or fifteen years from now, and it might mean something. They might have learned something about books or the library. Maybe I helped them find the perfect book. Or maybe I encouraged or inspired them in one of their interests. This week I needed those leaves to remind me that sometimes things we do stay with us, even when we don’t expect them to.

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