To make a leaf crown: First, apply your thumbnail firmly to the base of the maple leaf, where the stem joins. The stem should tear off easily. Layer the edge of one maple leaf on top of the next leaf and stitch downward and upward with the narrow end of the leaf-stem. The needle-stem holds the two leaves side-by-side, slightly overlapped. Use the stem of the second leaf and stitch to the third, the third to the fourth. Expect to shred a few leaves—it’s best to weave crowns while sitting in an abundance of leaves, with an abundance of time, say, while sitting at the playground.
When a dozen leaves or so are joined, measure the chain of leaves around your head or a child’s head and stitch in place with the last stem. Or make continuous leaf-chains and drape them around your neck, over the fence posts and swingsets. Admire your sweet folly: we are celebrating the temporal here. Bright leaves are here for the joy of a few days.
I look up and the bright leaves turn to rust, with no leaf crowns this year, no sitting for long hours in playgrounds. Instead I arrange rides to soccer practice and art lessons, and hope for an occasional afternoon at home with children, with a pot of warm popcorn. We catch up on homework and music practice. In my childhood we took to the streets after school, meandered the long way home, applied ourselves to puddles and bicycles and roller skates and games played in quiet streets while leaves sifted down. So much is required of these children, these days. They expect more of themselves, too, than I expected of myself as a child. I don’t know what I think about it. I do my best. I fail to do my very best, to manage my patience, to organize the time. I worry. I wish they played more, outdoors. But that would be another chunk of time to manage, another set of transitions each day. When the sunlight changes in springtime, the playground will be popular again, for another year or two if we are lucky.
What other skills will grow rusty from disuse? Someday I will not need to remind these children to brush their hair, to pack their lunches. Will they remember leaf crowns? Will they look up one day and find the golds and reds have gone to rust, without much notice?
I found a bag of large oak leaves browning behind the couch. “Anyone know what these leaves are here for?”
“THERE are my leaves!” she shouted. “Oh wait, MY leaves were bright red and yellow…” We talk about the effect of being stuffed in a bag for a week, behind the couch, poor girl. The sky darkens early, but we can still see. We walk the leaves to the compost and wish them a good winter. We pick some of the last of the summer wildflowers, still hanging on in the yard, and return indoors for a vase. We start the kettle for tea, pull out the homework, and settle in for the evening.