Peering out the back door through the wooded forest orange flames break
through the charcoal night, the silence broken by the raking of leaves.
Firefly sparks dance through the air. Heavy gray smudges of smoke billow
skyward. And the aroma of oak leaves filters through the air.
As I stand here I am reminded of childhood days in Michigan when tons of maple leaves filled our yard. When there was nothing to do or my brother and I whined about not having anything to do, mama or daddy would pipe up and say, "Go rake some leaves." It didn't matter whether we spent 10 minutes or an hour raking; it mattered little whether there were narrow swathes cleared or entire sections. We would rake till young tender hands were blistered and sore. Once cleared and raked into a huge pile, what else was there to do but jump in it? So we would jump and jump-soon we had armfuls of leaves that we were throwing up in the air or at each other-having too much fun to realize we would have to begin our task anew.
On some occasions, we would hold a bonfire ceremony. The mini piles were all brought into one huge pile in the middle of the driveway. Shortly after igniting the crackling dry leaves, daddy would announce, "Go get the marshmallows and hot dogs. Don't forget the forks." Long handled extension forks roasted, or rather charred, many a hot dog. Marshmallows were tricky; if you held them near the fire too long, they ignited and turned all black. It took just the right temperature to make them toasty brown and gooey.
After eating our fill, daddy tended to the coals while my brother and I would go inside where mama would have hot chocolate made from scratch. We always had our hot chocolate served in special mugs depicting pickinniny faces. Years later I found a set of them in an antique-collectibles store where I learned they originally sold through the 5 and 10Â¢ stores for about 39Â¢.
Other times, we would wrap potatoes in tin foil and throw them into the dying coals. The potatoes would cook in the hot embers and I do believe the taste surpasses that of oven baking.
So as I stand at the back door watching my husband rake the final mounds of leaves into the pyre, I wish I had those long handled forks and marshmallows handy.
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