n.b. This is an article I wrote this time last year. I have been nostalgic recently, and that gave me the energy to finally edit this
Autumn is here in Germany and our neighbours have responded by scooping the leaves from the pavement.
All of our neighbours.
I’m not sure if this is due to a national directive, or because of the clocks changing. It could even be the Feast day of a Leaf Saint, an expression of crowd-psychology or even emergent behaviour.
Most likely, germany being the way it is, this is either coincidence or an insurance thing.
Today at Kindergarten (Yay) another “erwachsene” (grown-up) started raking up the chesnut leaves. I joined in, and soon the children did too. They can carry a milk crate brim-full of leaves if they pair up. Our bins are out the front, so I lead the first pair out through the cellar, the rest of the caravan snaking along behind us.
Most of them carried the spare boxes back on their return journey, but one of the older girls found it enormously exciting to run away empty-handed. By the third time she did this I was finding it tricky to move around in the narrow alley with crates piled around my feet.
Soon Naughty girl came back, dropped her leaves and rushed off giggling, trying to persuade a little boy to join her game. I imagined the crate situation getting worse and called them back.
“No,” she laughed, “It is fun!” She had recently lost her front upper teeth. It is remarkably hard to sing- song shout “Nei-ein. Es macht Spa-aß!”, with those teeth missing. She managed quite well, all things considered
Wrapped up in the moment; all that cuteness was a little lost on me. “Yes, Now!”, I was getting short
“No,” they called in unison, “it is fun!”
I appealed to the little boy by name. He hesitated. A look of confusion washed over his face. He knew that it had been fun, but maybe not for me. Maybe ‘The Jake’ wasn’t playing the same game,or maybe it wasn’t a game at all.
She whispered something to him which removed his uncertainty.
“No-0,” the cadence louder, longer and more melodical, “it is fu-un!
“Please?” I asked, quietly.
The fun was gone. The little boy nodded, walked up the steps, and came over to the crate pile. Naughty girl followed at a distance, just in case retreat was still possible. I emptied his box and then quickly hoisted him up in the air. I popped him down on the almost full leaf bin and used his body weight to tamp them down. He delighted in this new, shared fun, and jumped and jumped. I stabilised him and helped the jumps to get higher and his wellingtons to land more heavily.
Seeing this new game, Naughty girl ran forward wanting a go.
“JA!, jetzt mir” she swung her hands up for me to lift her, pigtails sticking out and gave a little jump to demonstrate her meaning (in case I hadn’t quite gathered that). Or maybe, just from happiness.
” No,” my answer was punctuated as I helped the boy jump, “only [jump jump] for [jump jump] good children.”