The Leaf That Fell On My Shoulder

One day I was coming home from school, all of ten-and-a-half little me. Then a lone leaf just came dancing its way down from a tree and landed on my shoulder. I did not think anything strange like – this leaf has been sent! But I do clearly remember thinking – a leaf! – in a way I had never thought of any other leaf that ever fell on my shoulder. In fact, that remains the only distinct memory of a leaf falling on my shoulder.

Perhaps it’s because I recalled having been told that if a leaf fell on your shoulders it means you’ll receive a letter. I never gave that superstition a second thought though. I was too young to give second thought to anything. My biggest think in my little world at that very moment was putting my school bag down and getting to play blada and kati with the rest of the neighborhood kids till sunset.

So I get home and my mother says to me- You received a letter! You could have blown me right off of my skinny feet!

For a split second my child’s mind exploded into a cosmos with quantum possibilities – not that I understood what quantum was, but there’s a door into another dimension that cracked open at that point, and it wouldn’t be the last time this strange door opened. Later in life, I would come to experience moments of inconsequential things happening before they happen. But at the time of the leaf falling, little me quickly surrendered the awesomeness of that moment; a split-second moment filled with entertaining notions of life’s fleeting surrealism that has words like superstition and dejavu coined out of it. Instead I took in the more tangible, graspable awesomeness of the moment – receiving the first letter ever in my life!

I stared at it, wide-eyed. White envelope with blue and red stripes around the edges, my name on it, dad’s office address and a real stamp on it. Written by someone, to me, mailed and delivered. Wow. If I could package that moment in my childhood, its worth could very well be in the same line with the wonder of Livingstone’s first gaze upon Mosi-oa-Tunya which he passed off as the “discovery of Victoria Falls”.

I opened it. It was from my big sister who’d gone off to boarding school that year. I don’t even remember the content – maybe about how she must place her morning slice of bread on the desert plate and never on the big plate; or how the prefects have compound eyes at the back of their heads; maybe about the omnipresent Sr. Gemma who could see noisemakers in a classroom through the brick wall; or about the bell that rang at 5:30am for you wake up and screw your head on and it rang again at 9:30pm for you to screw your head off and put it to bed.

I don’t recall its content, but I never forgot the awe of receiving of that letter. And the lone leaf that foreran its arrival.

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