Two schoolgirls, thirty years ago, catching leaves.
Plane trees offer big, crispy leaves at this time of year. They're ideal for cities; just as humans shed their skin, plane trees shed their bark every few years, so the smoke and grime never overcomes them.
In our quiet North London street they complemented the Victorian redbricks, reaching as high as the first floor windows. They spring to life later than other city trees, and lose their covering last. Which is how it was that Kay and I came to be chasing leaves that 1st of December, all those years ago on our way home from school.
It was dark, of course, so the leaves like our upturned faces were orange in the lamplight. We made up a rule as only teenage girls dizzy for love can, that whoever caught a falling leaf could have a wish, and that wish would come true. I caught a leaf and kept it. I probably still have it somewhere, crackly and dry, tucked in among the boxful of secret notes we passed endlessly to each other during the last class of the day. Invested as it was with such hope, I can't imagine I would ever have thrown it away.
Today, that evening Kay and I caught our leaves gleams purely in my memory; a tiny, thumbnail image of joy with undimmed edges. She is still a friend, though circumstance has taken her to a live her life in a different land. Her house is above a lake halfway up a mountain, really quite near heaven, looking towards a range of mountains. We speak infrequently, email erratically, text less.
And yet, in the manner of the best friendships, I am sure that were someone to ask, she too would be able to describe the night we ran towards the falling plane tree leaves as they sashayed to the ground.
Some things, just a few, never change.