Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Just Like Jo


I remember the first house Stuart and I ever lived in. A postage stamp sized 4 room ramshackle cottage, with an equally tiny and disheveled yard.  Still, after several years of apartment living, we were excited that we had a yard.  I also remember finding a copy of the 1951 Better Homes and Gardens Garden Book at the local used book store, and feeling confident that between that book, and a few assorted tools we collected, including an old hand me down metal rake from my parents, we were well prepared for any yard and garden challenge we might face.  We bought a lawn mower and cut down the foot tall grass, tamed the wildly overgrown blackberry bushes (and learned how to make jam and pie as well), planted herbs and flowers, and raked the occasional leaf or two from the pair of camellias that graced either side of our front walk.  When we eventually moved from Oregon to Western New York a few years later, we bought a 60’s split level, situated on roughly two acres of land.  There were numerous flower beds and many trees.  Dozens of trees. When that first fall rolled around, and we found ourselves knee deep in leaves, our poor little metal rake could not keep up, and as if to offer one final protest, its wooden handle snapped in two.

The local hardware store was several miles away, but as the flurry of leaves showed no sign of letting up, we hopped in our car and made the trip.  And that is when we learned that the latest innovations in the field of modern raking had passed our little rake right on by. 

Look at the wingspan on that thing!  It must be 3 or 4 feet!

We both marveled as we stood in front of a display of the largest rakes we’d ever seen.

And that handle!  It must be 8 feet long, at least!  Will it fit in the car?  I wonder if we should have rented a U-Haul?

It took the two of us to carry our chosen rake to the checkout counter.  And when the clerk asked if we’d like help out with our purchase, we were mighty grateful.

We raked a lot of leaves in New York.  So many, that we eventually became a two rake family.  (Amy had her own toddler sized purple rake, but she left it on the driveway right before it snowed one winter, and it really wasn’t made to withstand the weight of a Subaru Legacy.)

Now we are comfortably settled in our 1900 Victorian, and we have those six beautiful maple trees I’ve mentioned before.  While I’ve never thought of raking as a chore, I never thought about raking as a tradition either.  Until I met Jo.  She stopped by one summer day, and introduced herself.  She lived in our house in the 1960’s.

I remember those trees, she said.  Sometimes I thought the raking would never end.

And it suddenly occurred to me.  We rake up those maple leaves every fall just like Jo and her family did 50 years ago, and just like all of the other families who lived in this house before us did.   We are following in the footsteps of 112 years worth people who raked leaves in this yard-if not from the maples, then from the other trees that were once here, as evidenced by the stumps that remain.  And maybe I’m a little odd, but I like that connection to the past.

But I do love the modern super sized rakes we have now.  And how about those crazy leggings I wore way back when?


  1. Very interesting read. I shall think of your story from now on when I rake leaves, which we have three trees now that shed massive amounts of leaves. I love their shade in the summer so I had better appreciate the raking in the autumn.

    Thanks for your kind words, too.

  2. Thanks Renae! I love the shade that our trees provide, too:) I also wonder what past families did with all of the leaves. So far we've raked up 30 bags worth, and there are still many more leaves to fall...

  3. Aww, this is sweet! I love connections to the past like that. I think maybe it's why I like antiques and hand-me-downs from my grandma so much :)

  4. Tammy, Thank you! I still have the metal rake, too-I use it as a garden decoration now. I love that it's a connection to my mom and dad, because those connections to our loved ones are so important, and special:)

  5. You should've hung on to those leggings - they'd be back in style now!

    We don't rake leaves - our place is too big. We only rake them for jumping purposes ;-)

  6. Oh I love that history of raking leaves we so think alike.
    I am sure it was incredible to meet the woman who raked before you. I bet she would have liked the new bigger rakes too.
    I love your little house but the Victorian one sounds incredible especially surrounded by Maples and history.You look so darn cute:) B

  7. This was a nice post. Not only did you let us glimpse into your past, but gave us a gift. The realization that many of mundane tasks we do, like raking leaves or mowing lawns have been done by many before us and will hopefully be done by those who come after us. There's something very comforting in that thought.

    BTW I love the story about the rake. It's also nice that you met Jo. That's unusual to meet someone who lived in your house before. So cool.

    Try to stay warm and cozy. I know winter is blowing in early this year. I already have my space heater out:~)