The yellow leaves of the trees standing on my front lawn once decorated my childhood with wonder and innocence. In the third grade, we created a turkey by gluing an autumn palette of dry, fallen leaves to the back of a small pumpkin. Every year, my vegetable turkey sat with my family for Thanksgiving dinner in the center of the table. Then, one year, the autumn leaves left. Boxes piled high around my house, all saying “Robert—Kitchen” or “Robert—Books,” and my dad was around the house less and less. The leaves continued to fall, and when I asked my mom why they had to leave, she told me it was nature’s way. I liked the warm, blurry colours that painted my front lawn, and was sad to see them gathered in a bag waiting at the end of my driveway.
Winter weather came early, and instead of the familiar turkey sitting on the table, my mom put out a bouquet of white flowers that had a tag reading “Happy Thanksgiving to you and your kids, love Dave.” The pumpkin turkey eventually rotted, and I was secretly upset that something I had loved was now gone. I wondered why I was having two Thanksgiving dinners when all I wanted was one, and I was still angry that the leaves had to fall off the tree.
My dad’s new house had white walls and a thin layer of snow covering the decaying leaves on the lawn. Inside smelled new, and I felt small. My dad moved again during the end of summer. I saw yellow and orange leaves decaying on the branches outside of my bedroom window. In this room I became the most isolated I have ever been; it was obscure, and the most uncomfortable I have ever felt. I felt like the burnt red leaves that fall from their roots and away from the other leaves they grew with.
Eleven years later, I am walking down the same driveway I once saw through rose-coloured glasses, this time holding a suitcase instead of a DIY turkey. I am not wearing glasses, and don’t mind the glare from the sun. I see yellow leaves that were once blooming off of the branches in summer, now lying lifeless on the cold grass as I tread over them. When these leaves lose their grip I remember my six-year-old self, wondering why her beautiful arrangement of these leaves’ ancestors was put on the shelf and left to rot away. I now know why the leaves must fall, and why my mom would leave the room to take a phone call. Things run their course and die. My homecoming is lined with tall trees with wilting leaves. This time of year is accessorized with clutches of relief and comfort. Leaving a place where anonymity is a characteristic of normality, and returning to a home with four walls and a door that locks, is the definition of family. I get a sense of nostalgia when I see these beautiful, dying leaves scattered on my front lawn. I remember the days when I was naïve and took pleasure in watching the leaves wilt off the tree, watching time pass by.