Monday, 12 November 2007

Running Away

We have run away from nursery school for a few days. It’s the week after half-term and at Westonbirt Arboretum the leaves are a delicate palette of yellows, ochres and browns. An insistent breeze is blowing them in a stream of whirls and spirals. My daughter runs from leaf-fall to leaf-fall with her arms outstretched trying to catch them as they jag around her open palms. She laughs and spins round on the spot, and the elderly people watching her laugh too.

When the wind dies, she stands beneath a huge oak and bends back her head to look right to the top. She blows to dislodge the leaves, puffing out her reddening cheeks and putting all her force into her breaths. Disappointed at the effect she puts her hands on her hips and looks at the tree accusingly.

Going from tree to tree she picks at the ground like a magpie, making a collection of leaves, pinecones, acorns. “Here are some things to put in your study” she says to me. “You can look at them and they can remind you of autumn, and you don’t throw them away. Ever.”

I put them in my pocket and stoop down and kiss her hair, which smells a little of baby, a little of shampoo, a little of her.

“Thank you. I will” I say, putting the handful in my pocket.

A few days later, when I am at home again I put my hand in my coat pocket and feel the dry bundle beneath my fingers. I pull it out and discover the leaves have been fired in crisp shades of brown and red.

I put them on my desk and I do look at them. And I won’t throw them away. Ever.

40 comments:

The Grocer said...

Ah, time well spent.

Sabrina said...

I just discovered your blog and it's really touching. I have a seven month old and my husband is planning to be a stay at home dad to our son starting at the end of next year. I will turn him on to this blog for sure!

Elsie Button said...

what a wonderful description of your daughter, and the leaves, and the love you have for her.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

That is so lovely. I do the same thing all the time.

Crystal xx

Stay at home dad said...

Yes, indeed Grocer. Hope all well with you. Will come and visit.

Hello Sabrina. Thank you very much - it's good to know there will be more of us around. Congratulations to you both on seven months of childcare!

Thanks Elsie, very kind; I'm sorry I haven't visited for a while.

Stay at home dad said...

Thanks CJ - so many toys out there in nature no need for much else I always think at times like those.

Frog in the Field said...

Westonbirt is fabulous at this time of year and the sunlight has been awesome. I suspect you are going to have a very cluttered study within a couple of years. You'll have teeth, feathers, notes to Santa, stones and sticks....I know, our house is full of it all!

Jan said...

Don't!
Don't throw them away...
Give the crumply -almost-dust leaves to your daughter when she's 25... tell her where you were, how you felt...she will appreciate your memory SO much....

Stay at home dad said...

Ah yes Frog, good point. I think a lot of it can subtly be binned but there is room for a little seasonal rotation!

Hello Jan. Do you think so? Lucky I'm writing it down then or I'd probably have forotten by then..

debio said...

When i returned to UK in the Summer I had cause to wear my old Barbour which I had left behind at my sister's house.

Plunging my hands deep into the pockets I discovered several dried leaves which I always kept there as they were 'presents' from my daughter - gathered on one of our walks when she was oh so little.

Kept forever. Thank you for reminding me.

Stay at home dad said...

Thanks Debio. That must have been a real memory. Summer this year was Barbour weather alright...

Suffolkmum said...

No I wouldn't want to either (throw them away). Mind you I now have cupboards, walls and surfaces packed with a bizarre assortment of things, which I have never got round to throwing away for sentimental reasons. People tell me a special box is the answer, but I'd probably lose the box. We're going to visit an arboretum next week, near to some friends, and your description was lovely. A treat to see a post from you.

Stay at home dad said...

Hi SM. That would be a big box! Thanks for your kind comment, enjoy the trees...

Iota said...

It's lovely to keep things, but I fear there does come a moment when you can't keep them all. My son came home from school yesterday with an old yellow pages which he'd picked out of the bin in the boys' toilets, which he thought would be useful for me to keep... I already have two old ones of my own, which I wasn't planning on keeping, and which haven't been in the bin of a school boys' toilets. I'm finding it hard to find space for this third one, but I'm also finding it strangely hard to recycle it. But it probably won't make it into the "ever" category.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

oh you are a good man...I'm afraid I'd leave them on the side for a while and then very guiltily bin them. There, I said it out loud. But I do have a very special box where their special stuff goes, and I do tend to laminate their drawings (freak? moi?)...
Well done for pulling her away from nursery, it's a loss when the grind of school kicks in.
Good to have you back.
Pigx

@themill said...

I have a shoe box full of shells, leaves, twigs, stones and anything else my now rather large children gave me as little people. In a fire, along with the childrens' photographs, it is the first thing I would rescue.
The Farmer talks fondly of Westonbirt - he spent a deal of time there as a student. (When he wasn't in the pub)

Jen said...

You have a gift, and I'm not talking about your writing, although that is a gift as well. You are able to be in the present, and see each tiny moment of childhood for what it is - wonderful. Thanks for reminding us all.

Stay at home dad said...

Hello Iota. I love your story. And what's more I can remember those boyhood inclinations too.

Pig, it's good to be *here*. They would generally have dropped into the park before getting in my pocket but somehow this time they made it in and then when I found them they were - and are - so beautiful.

Hi ATM. I suppose it's dried flowers for the modern day... Was the farmer at the Royal Agricultural College?

Thank you Jen. What a nice thing to say. Being in the moment is generally not helpful in life, although I gather it helps in Ballroom dancing...

Marla Fauchier Baltes said...

That is the sweetest thing I have read in a long time.

Stay at home dad said...

Marla, thank you. I'm in danger of losing my hard edge!

Tina said...

SAHD, it's good to have you back. Alas, my pockets are not so romantic, although they do contain some conkers, a small wooden car, & some cinema tickets.

Special to no one else perhaps, but special to me.

Lovely post, as ever.

DJ Kirkby said...

Ah thouse wonderous days of being able to escape midweek...beautiful. Enjoy it 'cos you are sure going to miss them when she starts big school... you can laminate tiny leaves and keep it in your wallett if you want, they keep beautifully.

Stay at home dad said...

Hello Tina. Thanks and I like the idea of romantic pockets! That sounds like the beginning of a short story...

Hi DJK. You're right , I know I'll miss them already. Half-term is so completely the opposite... Good idea - I'd better speak to Pig in the Kitchen about lamination.

lady macleod said...

Awwwwwwwww! do you ever get tired of my saying, You write so beautifully it makes my heart ache, and makes the writer in me so envious that I am ashamed? No? then here it is again, I love how you write!

I can SEE your daughter in the leaves, and your face in the study. once again, well done!

Mya said...

I keep pebbles, acorns and the deepest red leaves (we have a lot of those right now) - but my coat pockets get SO FULL. Not only do I get these beautiful presents, but for each one I receive, Daddy has to have one too - and guess who carries it? Gamekeeper's pockets are the answer, I suppose.

Lovely post. My first visit to your blog - I enjoyed it.

Mya x

Stay at home dad said...

Gosh, hello your ladyship and thank you, thank you. I certainly don't get tired of it and I wish you were here to encourage me in the rest of my writing!

Stay at home dad said...

Hello Mya and thanks for coming by. Thank you for your kind comments too.

The other day she wanted to bring home a branch which had blown down and I cold hardly carry it let alone get it in my pocket!

Jan said...

Hmm.
Probably a bit daft of me...expecting the leaves to stay intact etc.
But the memory can, cant it, even if it's buried deep?
Being out together, the Autumn, lovely.
Someone in my writing group wrote today re walking with her dad...she was 7 and she'd been ill for 3 wks and then he'd taken her out " to put roses in your cheeks" ....this woman's now well into middleage but she described the walk, being with her dad, brilliantly....even though she'd nit thought about it for decades...

Stay at home dad said...

No. I think it's a great idea, although it may be more meaningful in middle age than at twenty five?

Amazing that she remembers that, although it may stem from the fact that she, like many, has had relatively few experiences of that kind with her father sadly.

terancedubya said...

Awesome. Those are the moments that can be cherished for a lifetime. Thanks for sharing that wonderful day.

Stay at home dad said...

Thanks Terance, I appreciate you saying. I agree, the small things are in many ways more important than the big.

Swearing Mother said...

Think you need to get one of those click-it frames for those leaves, when they're dried they need to be kept!

Loved your post.

Stay at home dad said...

Thank you swearing mum. Sounds good, but what's a click-it frame?

The Poster formerly known as VI said...

At least your daughter only collects leaves on your behalf - my 7 year old son still persists on picking up twigs ranging from 6 inch long spindly things to trying to drag whole branches home from Hyde Park.

Of course if any manage to cross the threshold, he likes to dump them in my study, where they must stay! He has instant recall of how many twigs etc he has collected and woe betide if any somehow disappear.

There is currently a three foot branch from a plane tree propped up alongside my desk as I type!

Good to have a blog from you once more SAHD!

Peace is every step said...

Just discovered your blog--I am excited to share it with my husband, who has been a stay at home dad for 5 years now. He is amazing & it's nice to know there are more of him out there, raising awesome children and people.

Stay at home dad said...

Hello VI. Hope you're well. Yes, I've seen signs of this sort of interest too (see above). Not much you can get past a 7 year old is there?!

Stay at home dad said...

Hi Pies and thanks for stopping by. Yes, always good to know of more sahds, but never enough!

@themill said...

Yes, he was SAHD. Too many years ago to remember - again, that might have been the alcohol....

Mike said...

Hi stay at home dad,have visited and enjoyed before, and I enjoy your blog every time.I am envious of your ability to write so beautifully and to appreciate those precious moments with your daughter, and envious of your daughter who has no idea how incredibly lucky she is to have a fantastic Dad like you! mimi not mike

Stay at home dad said...

Thought as much, @TM. Loks like a nice place and a lot of good boozers in Cirencester!

Thank you Mimi. What kind things to say. That gives me a big boost, thanks again.