“freddie the leaf, the fall of”

The only author I can wholeheartedly call my favorite is Leo Buscaglia. Otherwise, I select books according to their subject matter. But I’ve enjoyed reading every one of  Buscaglia’s books. A postscript to one of my favorites, reads:

“Leo Buscaglia approached life with joy and enthusiasm. He pursued a path of perpetual learning that took him to places of wonder, excitement, and enlightenment. His sense of urgency to live life now and explore all that is possible was contagious to all who knew him. His life was dedicated to the single concept of ‘Love’ and all the beautiful and positive elements that it encompasses. …He died of heart failure on June 29th, 1998, at his home in Lake Tahoe, Nevada at the age of 74. A note was found on his typewriter the next day. It read, ‘Every moment spent in unhappiness is a moment of happiness lost.’

In 2004 I was in Chautauqua, New York, visiting my daughter while she danced in a summer program. Browsing through the bookstore housed in a charming building, I happened upon “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” by Leo Buscaglia. Tucking myself away in a corner, I read it. A lump formed in my throat for the story was written to assuage a child’s loss of someone special, to death. The book, in its 20th edition, is a “beloved classic that has helped thousands of people come to grips with life and death.” I’d like to share it with you now, in the hopes that it might someday do the same for you.

Spring had passed. So had summer. Freddie, the leaf, had grown large. His mid-section was wide and strong, and his five extensions were firm and pointed. He had first appeared in Spring as a small sprout on a rather large branch near the top of a tall tree.

Freddie was surrounded by hundreds of other leaves just like himself, or so it seemed. Soon he discovered that no two leaves were alike, even though they were on the same tree. Alfred was the leaf next to him. Ben was the leaf on his right side, and Clare was the lovely leaf overhead. They had all grown up together. They had learned to dance in the Spring breezes, bask lazily in the Summer sun and wash off in the cooling rains.

But it was Daniel who was Freddie’s best friend. He was the largest leaf on the limb and seemed to have been there before anyone else. It appeared to Freddie that Daniel was also the wisest among them. It was Daniel who told them that they were part of a tree. It was Daniel who explained that they were growing in a public park. It was Daniel who told them that the tree had strong roots which were hidden in the ground below. He explained about the birds who came to sit on their branch and sing morning songs. He explained about the sun, the moon, the stars and the seasons.

Freddie loved being a leaf. He loved his branch, his light leafy friends, his place high in the sky, the wind that jostled him about, the sun rays that warmed him, the moon that covered him with soft, white shadows.

Summer had been especially nice. The long hot days felt good and the warm nights were peaceful and dreamy. There were many people in the park that Summer. They often came and sat under Freddie’s tree. Daniel told him that giving shade was part of his purpose.

“What’s a purpose?” Freddie had asked. “A reason for being,” Daniel had answered. “To make things more pleasant for others is a reason for being. To make shade for old people who come to escape the heat of their homes is a reason for being. To provide a cool place for children to come and play. To fan with our leaves the picnickers who come to eat on checkered tablecloths. These are all reasons for being.”

Freddie especially liked the old people. They sat so quietly on the cool grass and hardly ever moved. They talked in whispers of times past. The children were fun, too, even though they sometimes tore holes in the bark of the tree or carved their names into it. Still, it was fun to watch them move so fast and to laugh so much.

But Freddie’s Summer soon passed. It vanished on an October night. He had never felt it so cold. All the leaves shivered with the cold. They were coated with a thin layer of white which quickly melted and left them dew drenched and sparkling in the morning sun. Again, it was Daniel who explained that they had experienced their first frost, the sign that it was Fall and that Winter would come soon.

Almost at once, the whole tree, in fact, the whole park was transformed into a blaze of color. There was hardly a green leaf left. Alfred had turned a deep yellow. Ben had become a blazing red, Daniel a deep purple and Freddie was red and gold and blue. How beautiful they all looked. Freddie and his friends had made their tree a rainbow.

“Why did we turn different colors,” Freddie asked, “when we are on the same tree?” “Each of us is different. We have had different experiences. We have faced the sun differently. We have cast shade differently. Why should we not have different colors?” Daniel said matter-of-factly. Daniel told Freddie that this wonderful season was called Fall.

One day a very strange thing happened. The same breezes that, in the past, had made them dance began to push and pull at their stems, almost as if they were angry. This caused some of the leaves to be torn from their branches and swept up in the wind, tossed about and dropped softly to the ground. All the leaves became frightened. “What’s happening?” they asked each other in whispers. “It’s what happens in Fall,” Daniel told them. “It’s the time for leaves to change their home. Some people call it to die.” 

“Will we all die?” Freddie asked. “Yes,” Daniel answered. “Everything dies. No matter how big or small, how weak or strong. We first do our job. We experience the sun and the moon, the wind and the rain. We learn to dance and to laugh. Then we die.” “I won’t die!” said Freddie with determination. “Will you, Daniel?” “Yes,” answered Daniel, “when it’s my time.” “When is that?” asked Freddie. “No one knows for sure,” Daniel responded.

Freddie noticed that the other leaves continued to fall. He thought, “It must be their time.” He saw that some of the leaves lashed back at the wind before they fell, others simply let go and dropped quietly. Soon the tree was almost bare. “I’m afraid to die,” Freddie told Daniel. “I don’t know what’s down there.” “We all fear what we don’t know, Freddie. It’s natural,” Daniel reassured him. “Yet, you were not afraid when Spring became Summer. You were not afraid when Summer became Fall. They were natural changes. Why should you be afraid of the season of death?”

“Does the tree die, too?” Freddie asked. “Someday. But there is something stronger than the tree. It is Life. That lasts forever and we are all a part of Life.” “Where will we go when we die?” “No one knows for sure. That’s the great mystery!” “Will we return in the Spring?” “We may not, but Life will.” “Then what has been the reason for all of this?” Freddie continued to question. “Why were we here at all if we only have to fall and die?”

Daniel answered in his matter-of-fact way, “It’s been about the sun and the moon. It’s been about happy times together. It’s been about the shade and the old people and the children. It’s been about colors in Fall. It’s been about seasons. Isn’t that enough?” That afternoon, in the golden light of dusk, Daniel let go. He fell effortlessly. He seemed to smile peacefully as he fell. “Goodbye for now, Freddie,” he said. Then, Freddie was alone, the only leaf left on his branch.

The first snow fell the following morning. It was soft, white, and gentle; but it was bitter cold. There was hardly any sun that day, and the day was very short. Freddie found himself losing his color, becoming brittle. It was constantly cold and the snow weighed heavily upon him. At dawn the wind came that took Freddie from his branch. It didn’t hurt at all. He felt himself float quietly, gently and softly downward. As he fell, he saw the whole tree for the first time. How strong and firm it was! He was sure that it would live for a long time and he knew that he had been a part of its life and it made him proud.

Freddie landed on a clump of snow. It somehow felt soft and even warm. In this new position he was more comfortable than he had ever been. He closed his eyes and fell asleep. He did not know that Spring would follow Winter and that the snow would melt into water. He did not know that what appeared to be his useless dried self would join with the water and serve to make the tree stronger. Most of all, he did not know that there, asleep in the tree and the ground, were already plans for new leaves in the Spring.

The Beginning.

Having purchased the book as a keepsake for my daughter, I turned to the first blank page and penned the following inscription.

Summer 2004

Dearest daughter,

I discovered Leo Buscaglia in Chautauqua this summer. Reading his  words was like looking at my soul through a mirror. He wrote, and lectured about, and lived a life of love, always having a positive attitude. “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf ” continues Buscaglia’s outlook thru to the final stage in life. 

 Live each day to the fullest, love hugely and passionately, strive always to have a positive attitude toward yourself, others and life. These are what I leave to you, when I fall from the “Tree of Life.” And I know you will do the same for your children, when your turn comes.

I will always be with you in spirit until we are together again, where all leaves spend eternal springtime together. Think of me as your “Daniel.”

All my love, forever…Mom

my sentiments for you, as well…hugmamma.

acknowledging trivia

We tend not to notice the “small stuff” we accumulate as part of our daily routine. Sometimes it’s good to pause and take note, for these things must be worthwhile if they’ve become part of our lives. So here’s what makes me “tick.” 

  • Biofreze was recommended to me by my chiropractor for use when I’m too lazy to pull out an ice pack for my aching muscles, which is always. Its label reads “Penetrating, long-lasting pain relief from: Arthritis, Sore Muscles & Joints, Back Pain.” From time to time, I have all of the above, often at the same time. I use it in spray form; my daughter uses a roll-on. This product is a lot easier to use than rubbing on BenGay or Tiger Balm. There’s no residual smell and I don’t need to wash it off my hands so I won’t inadvertently rub some in my eyes. I would imagine it’s obtainable on the internet.
  • Here’s an update on my “dry mouth.” I guess you could say I healed myself when I stopped using antihistamines. Doctors beware!  Here I come!…Interested in being my first patient?
  • Run, don’t walk to your local Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have one, then petition for one! Their merchandise is the closest thing to homemade that I’ve ever tasted. And my taste buds are really finicky, ask my husband, my daughter, my in-laws. My mantra is “If it doesn’t taste great, it’s not worth the calories!” It’s become my husband’s and daughter’s philosophy as well.
  • About my stack of Wall Street Journals, there must be at least 25 shoved into a cupboard waiting to be perused. Yes, I have difficulty tossing them out without so much as a “look-see.” Then there’s the stack of 6 or so in front of me on the computer desk. I looked at them, and saw some interesting articles, which I have yet to fully read. Now you know why I don’t subscribe to anything.
  • Probably won’t read this book for some time, but its title intrigued me “Hero of the Pacific – The Life of Marine Legend John Basilone” by James Brady. Has anyone ever heard of this man? My husband hasn’t, and he’s a walking encyclopedia about World War II. Well, I wanted to read this bio with “…revealing stories of Basilone’s youth in the Rockwellian any-town of Raritan, New Jersey, in the 1920s and 1930s; his first cross-country railroad trip with fellow soldiers in 1935; and his decisions to leave the Army and, later, join the Marines.” Basilone would go on to be a “…Marine gunnery sergeant known to his buddies as ‘Manila John’ ” who “first displayed the courage, tenacity, and devotion to duty that would define the remainder of his brief life and the manner of his death two years later on…Iwo Jima” Sounds like a story about men for men, but it’s also about a small town guy just doing his best with what life served up. Mightn’t this be any man, or woman’s, biography?
  • Had unexpected company for dinner this evening. A nephew and his girlfriend “Facebooked” me asking if we wanted to meet for dinner since they’d be in our “neck of the woods.” We invited them to dine with us. So I set aside blogging for a few hours, and my husband eased out of his recliner where he was watching “Patton” on TV. We drove to Trader Joe’s for a few groceries, came home and threw together a nice meal. It was a pleasant change to spend time with young folk. They’re in their 30’s, so they were old enough to “get” our humor, like my husband teasing that he’d trade me in for 2 – 30 year olds, a running joke since we were in our 40’s. They seemed to enjoy the side dish of sautéed, seasoned Portobello mushrooms, for  they ate them, without squishing up their faces in disdain. And they didn’t rush off when friends texted asking what time they’d meet up at a local tavern. I think they enjoyed our company too. Our house always rings with laughter, even when my husband and I are the only ones here.
  • Was just cuddling one of my Maine Coone-mixed breed cats, Juneau. He’s so desperate for attention that he tends to body slam anybody or anything nearby. Picking him up is like lifting a Costco size bag of potatoes. Watching him as he burrowed down into my chest, eyes closed as I stroked his head, these lines came to mind: “Three kittens, no mittens, no home, no mom. Three kittens found mittens, found home, found mom, found love.” How can I not love my pets, who give so much and expect so little in return.
  • As you can see, I’ve returned to blogging and my husband is snoring in front of the TV with the “movie looking at him.”  Our nephew informed us that that’s what his dad, my husband’s brother,  said happens when he falls asleep watching TV. I guess like brother…like brother.

will say a prayer for you at Mass…hugmamma.

bear bells

Our neighborhood backs up against a mountain where wildlife abounds. We’ve heard of black bears raiding bird feeders in back yards and garbage cans left at curbside. I’ve spoken with a few neighbors who have had sightings or encounters. Fortunately, I’ve not had the pleasure; nor do I want to. I admit the hair at the back of my neck does bristle when I’m walking my dog. With an abundance of mature landscaping, bears, and cougars, can be lurking anywhere.  I don’t mind if they look; I just don’t want them to touch…me.  Knowing my dog, she’d run straight for the animal, barking all the way, dragging me behind her. Stopping right in front of it, she’d drop down on her belly, not hesitating to offer me up as sacrificial lamb. My defense? Bear bells!

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Bear bells hang on the leash my dog wears when we’re walking outdoors. They’re suppose to warn bears, and cougars, that I’m coming so they’ll clear out. I guess they work; I’ve not crossed paths with a wild animal…yet. And I’m not planning to test the theory either. I don’t hike in the woods, and I’m not about to start. So where did I learn about bear bells?

When she was 15, my daughter traveled to Banff, Canada for her first summer dance program. I accompanied her, booking us a room at the exquisite Banff Springs Hotel, where we would stay for a couple of days prior to the start of the program. We had a great time sightseeing, but the day arrived for me to escort her to the dormitory where she’d be living for 5 weeks. We went by taxi because of her luggage, but on my return trip to the hotel I decided to walk.

Uncertain about directions, I asked someone who pointed me toward a path behind one of the dormitories. I proceeded as directed, trodding on a wooden walkway hidden on one side by tall shrubs. As I was about to descend a short flight of steps, I heard loud shouts from above and to the rear of me. Turning to look through the thick forest of tall pine trees, I barely made out the figures of people waving their arms and screaming. Unable to make out their words, I turned back thinking they were calling to someonelse. Pausing on the landing at the bottom of the stairs I looked up. On the path ahead of me, some 30 feet or so, a humongous black bear had turned toward the shouting. Sitting on its haunches, I could see his snout. I didn’t know if he saw me, but I wasn’t going to wait to find out. I slowly turned on my heel and climbed back up the stairway. I imagined the bear would be on my back in seconds. My heart seemed to be in my feet. Drained of adrenalin or numbed by it, I’m not sure, I was able to get behind the tall shrubs at the top of the steps. I unexpectedly met a man walking toward me. I explained the situation, wondering what we should do. Off in another direction we saw another path leading away from us. I fantasized we’d take it together and if the bear caught up with us, I’d jump on the stranger’s back letting him fend off its attack for both of us. Of course, I didn’t tell him what I had in mind. He’d have thought I was crazy, and I was. I was crazed with fear of being mauled and eaten alive, while my daughter sat unsuspecting in her dorm room. What would she think if I didn’t come to watch her in class the next day as promised?

Well I was amazed that the stranger barely paused to consider the circumstances before continuing in the direction from which I had just come. I wasn’t sticking around to hear what happened. I booked it back up toward the dorms and located a couple of campus security guards who pointed me down a road that exited the grounds.  They were aware of the bear’s presence, so went off in search of it. As I walked on the paved road, I saw a police car which stopped alongside me. The policeman asked if I’d seen a bear and I gladly explained my encounter. He too left in search of the animal. As I continued on my way, my heart finally returned to normal, pounding fiercely in my chest. I wanted to talk with someone about my experience. Since I knew no one in Banff, I got on my cell phone and called…my husband, who’s always there, when I need him, in his office in the U.S.

Unable to do much else, my husband asked if I was okay, and so on, and so forth. It was comforting to hear his voice, but I still wanted to talk to someone in person who would share my fear, and my excitement. I walked about the small town, amongst hundreds of tourists. I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs “There’s a bear! Run for your life! Hurry, get away!” But of course I remained cool, calm and collected…on the outside; on the inside I was “jumping out of my skin!”

I wasn’t sure how I would defend myself against a repeat encounter, since I planned to walk back to the campus the next morning. Wandering in and out of shops, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. On my last stop, a bookstore, I found the answer…bear bells. Accompanying literature explained that they would forewarn bears of my coming, so that they would escape in another direction. No weapon, no mace, no pepper spray, just li’l ole bells.  Paying for them, I related my story to the salesgirl who “burst my bubble” when she proclaimed that bears in town were not an unusual sight. In fact, walking to work one morning, she’d seen a bear huddled in a tree right in the midst of town. “So not a  big deal,” I thought to myself and left, making my way back to my hotel.

The next day as I wend my way through the campus where my daughter was ensconced, I jingled my bear bells. The only animals I passed were a couple of huge elk, one standing and one reclining on all fours. I eyed them across the street, and they eyed me. I wasn’t sure if the bells would repel, or attract the elk. They didn’t run, and their gaze never left me. It was disconcerting to say the least. Being trampled by elk would have the same outcome as being attacked by a black bear. I would be no more.

After watching her ballet class,  I told my daughter, and anyonelse within earshot, about my adventures. In turn she told me about the elk and deer that would wander near the dormitory, a couple settling down to rest outside her window. Needless to say she had a unique summer in Banff, the only American dancing with, and learning from, exceptional Canadians. Add to that wild animals; what could be more perfect?

not sure if I’ve seen my last bear…hugmamma.

the eyes have it

While preparing dinner tonight, my daughter and I were sharing little jokes, making each other laugh. Without thinking I said “I wish I knew what I looked like to someone who sees me coming toward them.” “What?” my daughter asked. So I repeated myself “I wish I knew what I looked like to someone who sees me coming toward them. What do they see first? How plumpy I am? I mean what do they notice first?”

Without hesitation my daughter said “Your mouth…going.” We burst into simultaneous laughter. She’s right. I talk like I blog…nonstop. Still laughing, my daughter then informed me that they probably notice that I’m Asian. Continuing, she told me that her dancer friends notice my smile first, and that my eyes  squint in a stereotypical Asian manner. Now it was my turn to say “What???” “Yeah,” she said, “Don’t you notice how we squint our eyes when we laugh or smile? Caucasian eyes don’t do that. Go look at dad when he smiles.” So I raced down the hallway in search of my husband who is half Portuguese. Asking him to smile, which he already is when my daughter and I burst through the partially open bedroom door, I noticed that she was right! His eyes were wide open. No matter how broadly he smiled, his eyes looked like saucers. Turning to my daughter, who had a huge grin on her face, her Asian eyes were squinting. (She’s probably only one-quarter Portuguese or less.) 

What do you think?  Is my daughter correct in her assessment, or is she hallucinating?

not 100% convinced, but we have a lot of laughs…hugmamma.