Today was my first day back at work.  Each October, just as the leaves begin to change colors, I dress in layers of shirts and vest and long johns and jeans and head for the woods.  Once there, I put on my very special hat, go inside the small shed that is the home of the little old lady who lives in the woods, and wait for the magic to begin.  This may be the best job in the whole world, and it’s mine.

Before long, the sound of a tractor motor and the squeals of children alert me.  I grab my copy of The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, stand behind the closed door, and wait for the fun to begin.  The tractor motor cuts out, and the driver informs the kindergarten class that “we are out of gas.”  He offers to walk back to the farm for some.  “I’ll be back tomorrow.  Did you bring your sleeping bags?”  Soon the decision is made to knock on my door and see if whoever lives there has some gas they can borrow.  Four brave kids accompany the driver and stand outside.  He knocks.  I wait.  “I guess nobody’s home,” he says, and I fling the door open.  The kids startle, I greet them with a smile, I send the driver inside for gas, and the fun begins.  The children lead me back to the hay wagon where I marvel at the great good fortune that has brought me so many visitors just when I was getting ready to read a book all alone.  Everyone knows that books are much more fun when you can share them with friends, and this one was loaned to me by someone who said she thought the story might be about me.

I begin to read, and I show the children the motions that accompany the story.  Soon they are caught up in the woods and the story and my magnificent hat.  They are sure that I really am the little old lady in the storybook.  We finish the tale, enjoy the warmth of a happy ending, and return to the real world — where the tractor sits silent and their trip to the Pumpkin Patch depends on it starting.  We hold our breath while the driver cranks up the engine.  It roars to life, and I lead the cheer for Fall magic and surprise visitors and storybooks and hayrides to pick out pumpkins for the classroom.

I climb down from the hay wagon and thank the children for visiting me.  “I don’t get many visitors out here,” I tell them.

“Do you really live here?”

“What do you think?”

“YES!!!”

“Where else would I live?”

They pull away, and I walk back to my house, turning and waving with each step I take.  Once inside, I sit by the side window and reach out past the pumpkin that sits on the sill.  I wave until the last child at the back of the wagon disappears from view.  It really is nice to have visitors when you live out in the woods alone.  I walk outside and close my eyes and take in the aroma of the trees and the soil and the woods in autumn.  The wind blows the trees, and leaves let go one by one and drift to the ground.  I look through the treetops as the morning sun lights up the leaves and sends shadows dancing all around my little house.

It must be forest magic, because sometimes I do think that I really live here.  Where else would the little old lady live?