Nuts to Roasting

Early warning notices are here. Winter’s on its way.

Stealthily losing its leaves, the tree across the street begins. No color change. I think it just likes to get the jump on the rest of the trees. Arboreal ego. And displaying no red, orange, or yellow flag. Just “pfft” and they’re gone.

Random brown oak leaves sprinkle across the pavement. More telltale traces. Plummeting next will be acorns as squirrels busily gather them for winter’s nap. As I passed by a chestnut tree, I spied its golf ball-sized fruits yet hidden beneath the burrs.

Giving way to gravity, the nuts will drop and tumble across the lawns, sidewalks, and streets. I remember them as a sure sign of autumn because we stockpiled them as ammunition during our Halloween escapades. We threw shelled corn across porches or against windows.

As if to intensify the racket, we tossed the chestnuts high above so they’d fall clattering on the rooftops … which were most often covered with tin. Then we scattered as hastily as our adolescent feet could carry us.

We soaped car windows, too. Before the meanness set in and less-nice guys used paraffin instead. Soap washed off freely; not so readily the wax. Tissue paper in the trees was a later development.

We just wanted to raise harmless hell for a night. Not leave a mess that inevitably followed us to our homes, instigating an apt punishment. Everybody knew everyone. Escaping scrutiny wasn’t easy then. We kids were the wards of the neighborhood.

Warily, we answered to adults no matter whose home we passed. And we passed by as speedily as possible.

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