The attention of a few turned toward the loud, clear sound of her voice, but the others were so engrossed in the game of hide and seek, they did not mind her call.
"Suppertime!" she shouted. "The 'food' is getting cold!"
Recognizing her second call as a warning, the kids ended their game and emerged from behind trees, garages, sheds, bushes and window wells and flocked to the "house."
But it was no ordinary house. It was a leaf house with grass as carpet and sky as a never-ending ceiling.
Its architecture consisted of neatly formed rows of autumn foliage, creating brilliant crimson, orange, brown and yellow lines that marked off rooms, doorways and windows.
The place had a calming effect, too. Boys and girls from different families and backgrounds stopped agitating each other long enough to construct the "house" with their rakes.
When the leaf house was completed, the kids settled peacefully inside, forgave each other their faults and called "time out" on any number of differences they had.
Inside, they created a happy home without the warts and worries of their real homes. It was as though they were floating on a cozy notion of "happily ever after" – an idea their parents bought into but could never quite place.
In the leaf house, the hearts and minds of neighborhood children joined in evangelical joy. This lasted until they heard their mothers calling, "Suppertime!"
A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her columns have won first-place national and state awards in The National Federation of Press Women competitions. Most recently, Damon's writing took second place statewide in the South Dakota Press Women 2007 Competition. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2007 Paula Damon