"Is this me, or my brother?" I asked my mother last April. I couldn't tell, you see. The kid was wearing the beloved red jacket (which may also be seen elsewhere on the site) that survived my rough'n'ready childhood, and my overly-social war-playing brother's.
The key giveaways - the wildly curly hair of a young Nils, the typical hand-on-hip stance I adopted then and now, the haircut of my mother - were absent - and I sat there trying to figure out which towhead was swinging.
When did my aunt buy her house? When did my father shave his mustache? Did he look like that when I was five - or when my brother was five? When did playing in the leaves become such a major part of Thanksgiving? I couldn't place a date. So I asked my mother.
"That's you, of course." she said with barely a look. I study the picture and I still can't tell. On the one hand, the kid has longer hair than boys usually do. On the other, my brother was seven before he had control over the length of his hair.
I can remember the feeling of that swing- the air flying back through my hair, my father's hands catching me and pushing me back, the way I'd stretch out my legs and feet to go higher and to catch the leaves as I swung by. When it was almost too unbearable to go any higher for fear I'd keep going and couldn't stop, I'd jump into the leaves.
Sometimes, if it was the third or fourth jump, my Uncle Stan would start raking the leaves around the pile, and a shower of leaves would fall down on me. My brother or cousins would come running and would leap into the pile.
We'd wrestle a bit, or throw leaves at each other, and someone would suggest a game of hide and go seek, and everyone would want to hide in the leaves.