Before Dad burned autumn leaves in the side yard of our ranch house in Elmhurst, Illinios, certain atmospheric conditions were required:
1. His World War II tent tarps had to be ground spread so my two brothers and I could sit upon them.
2. Enough leaves were raked to resemble a Cahokia Indian mound in order to justify investment in conflagration.
3. It had to be night, with a little wind, when the scent of such goings-on could go unremarked upon.
4. Dad had to be in the mood.
We didn’t invite outsiders. This was our ritual. I can’t say what my brothers imagined while orange embers smoked up the backyard where Mom usually hung sheets on Thursday afternoons. I can’t say what I imagined either.
It was something we did together. Dad ruled. We obeyed. Nobody interrupted. I don’t know for sure, but something true unfolded.