I was just plain homesick when the box arrived in San Antonio, Texas. It was big, and very, very light. I couldn’t imagine what it contained. There it was, waiting for me after work on the front steps. A large shipping box that was easy to move.

Since it was addressed to both Craig and me—I waited for him to get home from work too. It was something from my parents. Too early for Thanksgiving or Christmas it was a real mystery.

We cut through the shipping tape with a sharp knife and breathed in the scent of them before we even folded back the flaps. The scent was that of deep autumn in Indiana… the scent of leaves fallen from trees. Just their scent was soothing—the smell of woods, fall, a spent season of growth… of loss and letting go, too.

Folding back the flaps, there they were—reds, golds, browns. A huge pile of leaves topped off with a note suggesting strategies for their use. We poured them out on the living room floor. Listened to their crackle and breathed in their deep, earthy smell.

We shuffled through them with our feet… never mind that they were crunching into the carpet. We tossed them, rolled around in them… played as if we were in my parents back yard. Eventually we left them right where they were to make dinner.

For days we walked by them, tromped through them. The dog sniffed them and lay near the pile for hours. It turns out we were all homesick for autumn. Fall in south Texas just isn’t the same as the Midwest. The leaves do change but very, very subtly. They don’t fall from the trees until spring. Eventually we would learn to sense the tiny incremental changes of season in San Antonio—but nothing was ever as dramatic as what we’d known growing up in Indiana.

Leaves arrived in a surprise box for a couple more of our San Antonio autumns. They represented my parents combined sense of humor and whimsy—just one of many ways they applied their creativity to the delight of me or others.

I find myself missing that whimsy sometimes. Struck again by its absence or by the homesickness I feel without access to it. Even though they’ve both been gone for several years, I still find seasonally sparked longings that bring me into missing them. And, it brings me to the reality that they are no longer with me the way they once were.

It is memories like this that also challenge me to look closely for whimsy or fun. The memories remind me that I come from parents who laughed… and got a big kick out of the laughter of others. Though they never once saw me open that box… I wonder if they thought about its arrival. I consider the anticipation they felt in mailing it. Of how, sweeping those leaves into a box, they knew that it would bring me joy—so they paid the price of shipping and sent the leaves along.