I watched the first snow fall with great excitement, hoping that when the white on my lawn faded, the leaves underneath would somehow melt away with it.
But the snow is gone now and what was left behind is a sodden blanket of leaves, an unmovable mass of mildew that grows more aromatic with each sunny day.
In despair, I called my best friend for advice.
"Get a chain saw," she counseled.
"What for?" I asked.
"You're from Oklahoma -- genetically, you're not equipped to live around leaves," she said. "Cut down the trees, pave the whole yard in concrete and think about a mobile home."
Over the past few days, as the leaves and my depression have grown deeper, I've seriously considered her advice.
You see, there weren't many trees out on the raw-dirt suburbs of Tulsa when I grew up. Most of the shrubs were shorter than I was, and my parents were waging a losing battle to keep a ragged dutch elm in the front yard alive. Leaves tumbled down our street on the wind sometimes, but I figured they were just blowing through on their way to California where they eventually piled up against the side of some gigantic mountain.
It was such a barren existence that every fall, my mother would load us up in our '57 Chevy and take us to Woodward Park for a strange and exotic experience -- jumping in a pile of leaves.
Who could blame me for being jealous of kids who jumped in their own leaf piles? I thought oak trees were status symbols. I fantasized about being part of those happy, raking families shown on the cover of the Sears fall catalog.
So when I moved to Washington, I wanted a yard with trees, big trees with lots of leaves. When the real estate agent took us house-hunting, I didn't ask about the square footage, I wanted to know how many maples and oaks and dogwoods came with it.
"Do you really think we want all these trees?" my husband asked, when we finally found a heavily wooded acre in Fairfax.
"Of course," I reassured him. "It'll be beautiful in the fall."
October was beautiful when the leaves first changed colors. I went around the house rhapsodizing about "nature's blazing beauty." I helped my son make leaf collages. I took color photographs to send to my parents.
Then I woke up one night to an ominous rustling outside my window. "Listen to how hard it's raining out," I said to my husband.
"That's not rain, that's nature's blazing beauty falling all over the yard," muttered my husband, who grew up raking leaves.
Saturday morning, I rushed to the local Hechinger and bought rakes for each family member. As I pushed the family out the door, I promised hot apple cider when we were finished.
But three hours later, the only thing close to finished was my marriage.
The blisters on my hands were bleeding. My son was crying and sneezing, and he looked at me like I was crazy when I suggested he jump in the leaf pile. My husband announced he was going inside to watch football for the rest of the year.
"Maybe we should just wait until all the leaves fall so we only have to rake once," he said.
But we couldn't wait. Leaves were everywhere, piled around the doors, tracked into the house, clogging up the gutters. We took to refusing social invitations on the weekends: we were too tired from raking leaves. I bought a $120 leaf blower to clear the front lawn before the neighbors complained. But brown spots are showing up on the lawn where I left the leaf piles too long before carting them to the curb.
Finally, after my husband dug his way through the leaves to reach the garbage cans, he announced that we were moving immediately -- or were hiring someone to rake the leaves.
"That's a good idea," I said dreamily, "And maybe we could go back to Oklahoma next fall. You know, I used to love to watch the leaves blow down the street . . ."
-- Angelia Herrin