Amy held out a reusable grocery bag to the young child. The bag was light brown with an image of various fruit and vegetables clumped together. Maybe it was supposed to look like Thanksgiving and fall-like, but Amy thought it was ugly. It was the first bag she could find though.
It was a big bag and she worried about its size, especially as the boy dropped a handful of leaves inside. After doing so, he grinned promptly turning around in search for more leaves.
Amy peered inside the bag. When she suggested going on a leaf hunt with the kid she babysat for, she didn’t think he’d take it literal. The foliage was at its peak and Amy thought it’d be a nice idea to go for a walk and take a look at the vivid red, orange, and yellow leaves. Maybe play I Spy or something as well.
Instead, the boy wanted to collect the leaves. He took the leaf hunt to heart and was in search for the “bestest leaf.” (His words, not hers.)
However, the bag was slowly filling with not only freshly fallen leaves, but crumbs of dead leaves crushed under either his footing or the handfuls of dirt that somehow made it into the bag as well. Blades of grass were collected and, so far, Amy hadn’t spotted any bugs. If she did though, she was going to have to find a way to “accidentally” drop the bag causing it to tip upside side spilling all its contents.
The four-year-old came back with another fistful of more dirt and grass than leaves. Amy held the bag out and he tossed it in.
“Don’t you think you have enough now?” she asked.
“Nope,” came the prompt reply. He was off again in search for more.
Amy sighed. She looked over her shoulder taking a look at the clock hanging on the wall in the porch through the door. At least he was entertaining himself. His mother was due home any minute and Amy figured this would be her problem soon enough.
As if on cue, Amy heard a car pull into the driveway in the front. She called to the boy telling him his mother was home, but he waved her off. He was too invested in the leaves.
Amy spoke with his mother for a few minutes before trying to say bye to the boy. He wouldn’t let her leave.
Then his mother needed to ask Amy about another babysitting day and they got wrapped up in conversation once more. After a few more minutes, Amy said bye to the boy again. He said no.
His mother sighed. She now held the bag of dirt and leaves. She told him Amy was going to leave whether he said bye or not. They were leaving for vacation in the morning so this was his last chance to see Amy for a whole week.
With that, he walked toward Amy with a sly grin and both hands behind his back.
He better not have a worm. Amy thought to herself.
“Ta-da!” he exclaimed, revealing what he had behind his back. “For you. Don’t forget me when I’m on vacation.”
Amy’s mouth hung open in shock.
“It’s the bestest leaf,” he said.
Amy reached out and took it. The oak leaf truly was the best one he found all afternoon. It was bright red with not a scratch or tear on it. It must have just fallen from the tree overhead.
“Are you sure?” Amy asked.
She smiled. “It’s beautiful, thank you.”
Amy made her way back home, the leaf sitting in the passenger seat of her car. What was she supposed to do with a leaf? The gesture from the preschooler was sweet but Amy knew she wouldn’t be able to keep a leaf. It would soon brown and crumble and she’d have to toss it.
She pulled into her driveway and thought about dropping the leaf on the ground. That’s where it belonged and maybe a small critter would use it for warmth or to hide their food for the upcoming winter.
She couldn’t bring herself to drop it.
Of course, Amy wasn’t going to forget him while he was away for a week. She had just started babysitting for him a month ago and maybe he thought she wouldn’t remember him after being away for so long.
Amy shrugged as she went into her house still holding onto the leaf. Would he know if she dropped it? No. Would she know? Yes.
She went straight to her bedroom and pulled out a scrapbook. She turned to a blank page, passing old love letters from her high school crush, photos of school dances and birthday parties with her friends, and the occasional memento. Amy placed the leaf on a blank page and with a permanent marker wrote, “The Bestest Leaf.”
She didn’t know how long the leaf would keep its color. She knew it would brown regardless of being on the ground or in her scrapbook. But the memory will always be there.