Sibling Assignment #106: Second Grade and Growing a Love for Autumn

a neighborhood in Kellogg on an autumn day

Silver Valley Girl gave the sibling assignment this week.
Write about one of your earliest memories of being in school.
Raymond Pert wrote about early experiences with his intellectual abilities here. Silver Valley Girl will hopefully find time to post soon now that the 80's birthday bash and slumber party with a group of young teenage girls is over at her house.

I have recollections of school earlier than second grade, but while reading Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry the other evening, the poem below brought back strong images of a special day from second grade. Perhaps my imagery wouldn't have been as stunning in my poem, but I certainly could have written a similar recollection.

Gathering Leaves in Grade School

They were smooth ovals,
and some the shade of potatoes—
some had been moth-eaten
or spotted, the maples
were starched, and crackled
like campfire.

We put them under tracing paper
and rubbed our crayons
over them, X-raying
the spread of their bones
and black, veined catacombs.

We colored them green and brown
and orange, and
cut them out along the edges,
labeling them deciduous
or evergreen.

All day, in the stuffy air of the classroom,
with its cockeyed globe,
and nautical maps of ocean floors,
I watched those leaves

lost in their own worlds
flap on the pins of the bulletin boards:
without branches or roots,
or even a sky to hold on to.
-Judith Harris

One sunny, warm fall day we took a walking field trip in second grade. We were studying Neighborhoods in social studies and Mrs. Meyer led my class exploring the blocks close to the Sunnyside School in Kellogg, Idaho. The leaves had turned yellow, orange, and red and crunched underfoot as our single file line followed our teacher down the block. Our young minds learned that day about house numbers. She patiently explained how the numbers on the block work with even and odd numbers. For a long time after that I always studied the street numbers when we drove down a block uptown, in Spokane, or Orofino. It always worked that way. It was a pattern that always made sense to me . When I helped my brother deliver papers one summer on those blocks north of Sunnyside school I once again checked that pattern of numbers. I did the same when I sold Camp Fire mints in those same neighborhoods a few years later.

Mrs. Meyer also tied science in on that walking field trip as we studied the turning leaves on the trees and were given permission to pick up the leaves on the sidewalk. I studied those leaves with curiosity, noting the veins of color, the unique shapes and various sizes. Breathing in the crisp air and feeling the warm autumn sun on my face is a memory I go back and revisit. Could life have been simpler than on that day in September on the blocks surrounding Sunnyside School? Could there have been more joy than picking up leaves and carrying them with care back to the second grade classroom?

Art was also connected with this project. We arranged our leaves between sheets of wax paper and displayed them proudly on the windows looking out to the playground. Each afternoon the next week the sun would stream through those windows causing the yellows, oranges, and reds to glow like crown jewels. She also taught us to paint those colors. With large pieces of butcher paper, a fat paint brush each and paint bins of yellow, brown, red, and orange each second grader created a tree of their own that was displayed on the tile-like glass above the windows.

Knowing Mrs. Meyer I am sure we learned a poem about autumn leaves or she read us a story to tie in all up nicely. Fall is now my favorite season of the year. That love for the season may have started that day I learned about house numbers, experienced pure joy while collecting leaves, and felt that warm, afternoon autumn sun on my face.
autumn colors on a hill close to my childhood home


  1. already these colors??

  2. Angie Bishop6.9.09

    I really enjoyed that, Christy! I can just picture you proudly skipping along the sidewalk.


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