(I’m doing something today I have never done before. And that is using a past column as my Friday blog. I’m doing it for a couple of reasons. One is that last weekend I raked up about 17 bags of leaves and there are at least that many still on my trees. Another is that I just read the following from fall of 2015 and I don’t think I can write anything better on the topic. A third is that in this I share some of my fondest memories associated with raking leaves. If you keep reading, you will see what they are. I wish to add something though. During my leaf raking this year I thought of a person I knew just a little 20 years ago and I fear has passed away. His name is Michael Jerome and if he is alive, please let me know. The news will make my day. Michael ran the Inn at Cooperstown in Cooperstown, New York. I stayed there on several occasions. During one, I saw him out back raking leaves. He appeared about as content as human being can be. That made an impression on me that came to mind last weekend. There’s peace and joy in them there leaves. Here’s the column.)
Everyone who plays tennis for the first time says the same thing the day after: my glutes are killing me.
“Glutes’ is slang for gluteus maximus.
For those who slept through anatomy class, gluteus maximus is the official name for the muscles of your derriere.
For those who slept through French class, your derriere is your behind.
Even people in good shape say tennis finds muscles on them they didn’t know they had. Usually they’re glutes. While you are playing, you are not aware of how those muscles are being worked. But the next day.
Am I saying tennis can be a real pain in the butt?
Well, yes. At least in the beginning. But those glutes eventually do come around.
Not forever though.
I found this out last week. But not on the tennis court. In my yard.
Raking leaves, I discovered, is just as big a pain in the butt as tennis.
I suppose I never noticed this before because for the last 40 years or so I played tennis right into leaf-raking season. This year, however, I stopped playing the first week of September. Now I am paying the price.
We’re talking about muscle atrophy. Stop using your glutes and your backside goes backwards. Darned fast too.
As with tennis though, the pain is worth it.
I love raking leaves.
Every year my wife wants to buy me a leaf blower. Every year I beg her not to. About ten years ago she bought me one of those things that sucks up the leaves and mulches them. I used it once.
I love raking leaves because it gives me the opportunity to spend time with three people I can’t spend time with any more: my dad and my little kids. Dad has been gone for 21 years. And the kids haven’t been kids for even longer.
When I was a child myself every dad on the block was out raking leaves on autumn evenings. That was the 1950s, when every house had one car and at least four kids. Kind of the opposite of today. Our dads would rake the leaves into the gutter and then light them on fire. The aroma was something you never forget.
Burning leaves was out of the question 30 years later when I was a dad but that didn’t mean we couldn’t make memories.
We lived in Clarks Summit then and the borough rented a vehicle that vacuumed up the leaves. All we had to do was rake them into the gutter. Quite convenient, except the gutter was in front of my house and all my leaves were out back.
I developed a plan I thought rather ingenious. I would spread a bed sheet on the backyard grass and rake a pile of leaves into the middle of it. Then I would gather up each corner forming a sort of Santa’s sack, sling it over my shoulder and carry it to the curb. It required several trips but got the job done.
All the while, Greta and Michael, he maybe 3 and she 6, would frolic around me. After the first trip or two I spotted Michael burying himself in the pile in the center of the sheet. I pretended I didn’t notice and raked more leaves over him.
“Now, where did that Michael get to?” I’d then ask playing along.
“I don’t know,” his little accomplice Greta would say.
“He must have gone into the house,” I’d add, pretending not to hear the giggles coming out of the pile.
“Well,” I’d continue, “keep an eye out for him, Greta, while I carry these leaves around front.”
Then I’d hoist the sack to my shoulder with, “Boy, these leaves got heavy,” ignoring the giggles which grew even louder.
Out at the curb, the stowaway would be discovered, much to my feigned but believable (to a 3-year-old) surprise.
Then we’d do it all over again. And again. I was “surprised” every single time.
Those delightful days with my father and later with my children faded into the past all too soon. Which means there’s an element of risk to my current leaf-raking. I miss my dad and those those little rascals so much that if I’m not careful, I could wind up with an aching heart along with my aching rear-end.