The leaf-kicking season is peaking right now. It is a short period which lasts for a few weeks beginning in mid-October. It is something I have always taken for granted, like daffodils in spring, cornflowers in summer and frosted grass in winter. One of those things you can always rely on, it comes round every year and gives reassurance that at a leaf-falling level everything is still well with the world. The leaves act with elegance and discretion as they quietly gather themselves in silent piles, and just sit there. They do not stay with us for long and when they are gone they are gone, and when it all inevitably turns to black and brown shrivelled slush nobody minds because by that time Christmas is almost here anyway, but that’s another story.
It is true that you learn new things all your life, and so recently, shocking as it was, I was alerted to the fact that not all people experienced leaf-kicking season in their childhood. In fact, adults now, they are still not familiar with the custom. What is even more amazing, I discovered that I have lived with one such person for what seems like for ever. A couple of weeks ago I said to him, let’s make time this weekend and go to the park, it’s leaf-kicking season. ‘It’s a what?’, he asked not without apprehension. How could I have missed this? How could I not have noticed the glaring depravation he carried with him all the way from his African boyhood until now?
We went. We found a suitably wide leaf-carpeted path, and off we went, kicking. He was clumsy at first, lifting his legs too straight, too high, an overzealous soldier on parade, totally focused, coordination lacking, arms flailing, keen to get it right. I followed quietly in his wake, making my expert-level kicks and shuffles look effortless, and left him to find his own style. I didn’t have to wait long before the all-familiar leaf-kicking smile of joyous self-satisfaction appeared on his face. I smiled back, knowingly, and we carried on, kicking, shuffling, digging in, sending small clouds of leaves, dust, soil, grass, up in the air, until the right moment came and there was nothing else to do but to stomp our feet, shake off speckles of dust from our jackets, and carry on walking along, with renewed calm and contentment, back in the role expected of us, a pair of middle aged adults again.
Later that night I heard him talk to his mother on the phone, ‘Ania took me to the park to kick leaves today. Yeah, apparently it’s a thing. It was quite fun, actually’.
Go on, have yourself a good kick and shuffle today.