Tuesday, September 30, 2008


We are now a full week into autumn of 2008. With the world facing an apparent financial meltdown shortly, I thought it might be a good time to turn my back on reality and look down on the ground.

There, the five-year-old and I found a leaf on the way to school yesterday. It was bright pink, not a color I usually reference to autumn although it's as valid as any of the sundry others that fill the trees, streets and lawns. The veins were thin dark branches against a near fluorescent shade. He held the leaf all the way to school and then left it in his backpack until we got home. I found it again on the dinner table, crunched on one side but still radiating its beautiful death hue alone in our home. It won't be the last leaf he brings home this year.


Growing up in Winston-Salem, the ultimate autumnal drives were through Reynolda Gardens and down Runnymede Road. The Gardens, a usual weekend hang for the teens, had massive amounts of grass on the grounds, and the trees were concentrated along the edges like a Civil War battlefield looks. Lots of leaves all over the driveway.

Runnymede Road was and is the deal. Many's the rainy October afternoon we would glide home in our semi-legendary 1967 Olds Delmont 88 convertible (pale yellow, pale yellow interior and pale yellow top, what aficionados call the 'triple dip') down Runnymede, a split road connector between two of W-S's busiest streets that features several tiny parks and gardens along its midst. The leaves would have carpeted the road in yellow, brown and deep red and the rain shellacked it clear. The trees hung onto their leaves on Runnymede until they'd made a good show of it each year, then hung bony and barren the whole winter.

I would walk with my friends to our various schools. The damp cold smell of the leaves was especially strong in the morning, fresh to the nose, like the curing tobacco smell that permeates my hometown in late summer afternoons.

I drove down Runnymede Road the other day when I was visiting Winston-Salem. It runs past my high school and dumps out onto Hawthorne Road, past my junior high and elementary schools as well. Having been thinking about how R. J. Reynolds High School, while being designated an arts magnet school, is really more beholden to the physical education department's strong fundraising arm, I wanted to drive by and look for the new Sports Hall of Fame. It's not a physical building, apparently. So I drove on down, hoping to find the leaf cover of autumn ready for visual consumption.

A few weeks too early, I'm afraid. I go back for a book-signing on Sunday, so maybe I can drag the family along then, and see if we can enjoy the maximum fall has to offer on a sweet road of wonderful memories.