The air the past few mornings has had a crispness to it. A sure sign that summer is ending and fall is just around the corner.
Other signs of fall have appeared. Football games, homecoming parades, leaves on the trees beginning to change from green to yellow or red or brown. In some gardens bright orange pumpkins will soon be ready to harvest.
When I was a child, this was the time of the year our family took to the woods to gather black walnuts and hickory nuts. I remember shucking the black, soft husk off the walnuts and my fingers having a brown stain from the husks for several weeks.
Arriving home with gunny sacks full of walnuts, we’d empty them onto the dirt floor of the garage and spread them out to dry. Twice a day my brother and I would use rakes to turn the walnuts so they’d dry evenly.
One year, my dad noticed an empty space at one edge of the walnuts. Thinking perhaps they hadn’t been evened out, he filled the space by raking the walnuts. But the next morning, there was once again an empty spot.
The sight of that empty space spurred him into checking around the outside edge of the garage. It didn’t take long for him to discover why the walnuts were disappearing. A very smart squirrel had dug a tunnel underneath the garage footings so he could get to the walnuts inside.
Dad filled in the tunnel with some bricks and returned to the house. With a laugh he told us about the squirrel and ended by saying, “I guess that’s one smart squirrel. He let us do the work of gathering his food for the winter.”
For me, the best part of going to the woods was listening to Dad talk about the plants we saw and their uses. He’d tell us how his mother would send him and his brothers to the woods to bring in the plants she used for cooking and medicinal purposes over the winter.
Our reward for spending the day to gather nuts was stopping by the drug store to get a big milkshake.
But there were other rewards that were even better. There was the reward of spending time together as a family. The reward of learning about plant life. The reward of hearing stories of a grandmother my brother and I never knew. The reward of hearing about our father’s childhood.
Those are rewards that no money can ever buy.
Whether it’s gathering nuts or picking out a pumpkin to carve for Halloween or raking leaves, make it family time and in the course of what you are doing, also make it a time of learning and sharing memories. It’s times like these that helps build a firm foundation for your children’s lives. One that they can always rely on as they go through their life’s journey.