This past Saturday morning, I woke up with a severe migraine. I don’t know if I slept wrong, if I was suffering from residual stress at work, if it was a side effect of my latest bought of writer’s block or if I was going through severe caffeine withdrawal; all I knew is that I woke up and my head hurt.
I rolled over and Stephanie wasn’t in bed. She must have slipped out of the room when the children woke up and headed downstairs for her morning cup of coffee. I could hear the children arguing over the television remote in the guest room and with my mind draped in a state of morning fog; I made the mistake of uttering something to let the world know I had awaken.
Joshua came running into my room to tell me about his latest feat with his new Pokemon game for his Nintendo DS. He was only one level away from being a Pokemon Ranger and he was so proud of himself. I, on the other hand, was one decibel level from feeling my head explode and I wished that I could’ve crawled back under the covers and gone back to sleep.
Stephanie came into our room and told me that it was freezing outside and that I might want to reconsider raking the leaves. The leaves; I had completely forgotten about the leaves! A migraine, fatigue, a severe cold front and leaves all over the yard; my vacation was starting out with a bang! I rolled over, covered my head with my pillow and tried to hide from everyone and everything, but my migraine wasn’t letting me go back to sleep.
So I stumbled out of bed, walked downstairs, poured a large cup of coffee, threw back a couple of Tylenol and took a big gulp from my cup of Joe. I looked out the window and stared at the branches as the wind whipped across the horizon. I disapprovingly shook my head at the thought of the leaves that had accumulated in my backyard because I only have one solitary tree in my yard. My neighbors have a lot of trees but I have the fenced in back yard which traps leaves until I dispose of them.
My day and my Thanksgiving vacation seemed to be going in the wrong direction and it was only 8:45 a.m. I didn’t want to prolong the inevitable and have the leaves hanging over my head all weekend, so I picked up my cup of coffee, walked into the living room and stopped in front of the couch.
“Josh,” I said.
“I think you better bundle up today.”
“You and I have some leaves to rake.”
I love his willingness to help. It was cold outside; I know I must have looked like something the cat dragged in as I delivered the bad news and the idea of spending the morning raking leaves can’t be what a seven year-old dreams about doing on a Saturday morning. But Josh was unselfishly excited about helping me and as I bewilderedly stared at the widening smile on his face, Josh turned and yelled as loud as he could, “Chloooooeeeeee, time to jump in the leaves!!”
As he ran off to get ready, I went to my room and put on my warmest clothes. After putting on layers of clothing, I went into the garage to find my leaf blower and the long extension cord. Then I headed to the back yard to survey the battle field and develop my plan of attack. As I stood in the middle of the backyard, a sly little smile came across my face and I quickly looked upward and said under my breath, “Thank you, God.”
For the past week, we have had swirling winds blowing constantly in our neighborhood. As I stood in my back yard, I realized that most of the leaves had been blown toward the corner of the yard where I usually pile up the leaves before I put them in the garbage cans. In a stroke of divine intervention, the heavy lifting had been done for me already. As I orchestrated my game plan, I became increasingly excited about the task at hand.
As Stephanie and the kids came out of the house, I went over my plan with them. I don’t think the kids quite understood what I was talking about at first, but I told them that they would soon be very happy. They just had to follow the plan and the reward would be well worth the effort.
Stephanie went to work and cleared the leaves from the garden as I started blowing all of the remaining leaves toward the gate around the corner and on the side of the house. Josh and Chloe started carrying as many leaves as they could to the pile in an attempt to finish our chores sooner rather than later. On their return trips to grab more leaves, I would blow leaves directly at them and they would run through the floating obstacles with an infectious round of laughter that filled my heart with joy and forced my migraine to quietly subside.
We threw leaves at each other, each of the kids took a turn using the leaf blower, we laughed, we played and before we knew it, the cold was gone. Maybe it was the sun that had reached a balmy 45 degrees Fahrenheit, maybe it was the hilarity of playing outside with leaves or maybe it was the enjoyment of spending a fun filled fall morning with the people who mean the most to me. Either way, the worries that I had woken up and started my day with had melted away.
As I turned the corner at the back of my house and pushed the last of the leaves towards the pile, I caught the grins of Josh and Chloe as they waited with anticipation. I blew the final bunch of leaves onto the pile, turned off the leaf blower and stepped back to look at our masterpiece. Picasso would have been proud.
“Are we done, Daddy?!!” Chloe asked.
“…In a minute,” I said as I cut off Josh in mid-sentence. “I want to stare at it for a moment.”
And we did, we stared at it. We were in awe of it. We never thought it would be so big. I mean, we thought it would be big but this leaf pile was huge. It was gigantic. It was humongous. And when I tell you it was big, I mean “It was nine feet high and six feet wide, soft as a downy chick. It was made from the feathers of forty’leven geese, took a whole bolt of cloth for the tick. It’d hold eight kids, four hound dogs, and a piggy we stole from the shed…” Wait. That’s not right! That’s a John Denver song but you get the point. This was the biggest pile of leaves I had ever seen and before we flattened it, we just wanted to take a moment and revel in our creation.
Well, Josh and Chloe didn’t want to wait that long, so they ran as fast as they could and they jumped into the leaf pile and disappeared. Stephanie and I laughed. The kids laughed from beneath the leaves. Josh popped up quickly and hopped out so that he could jump into the pile again. Chloe got lost in the middle of the leaves and took a few moments to figure out how to get back out of the pile. And then they both jumped back into that mountain of leaves again and again.
I don’t know how long we played in the leaves, rebuilt the pile, flattened it, and rebuilt it again. But as Josh and Chloe covered me up with leaves and jumped on top of me, I was reminded of my childhood and the fun I had as a kid playing in the leaves. I loved it when I was their age and to be honest, while I was playing outside with them on Saturday morning, I realized how truly blessed I am. As I watched my family enjoy the day, I knew what I was most thankful for every day of my life.
But like all things, our fun came to an end. The kids got cold again and hunger had set in. As they headed into the house for some lunch and some hot cocoa, I went back to my work with a different attitude; gratitude! I was grateful that we had raked the leaves, regardless of the weather, I was grateful for my wife, Stephanie, who has made our house a home and I was grateful for my children who constantly remind me not to take life so seriously. And for all of that and so much more, I am truly thankful.
May you all have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Now, where the heck did that piggy come from…?