By Linda Porter Carlyle
MacKenzie Isabelle Evans watched a large brown maple leaf drift down to the sidewalk. She promptly stomped on it and grinned at the crunching sound. Autumn was her favorite time of the year. And leaf stomping was one of her favorite autumn activities.
Well, when she stopped to think about it, winter was her favorite time of the year too. She loved seeing the snow on the nearby hills, and she loved to play in it on those wonderful occasions when it snowed in Jacksonville. And then there was spring. Spring was her favorite time of the year. She loved the sweet violets that popped up in the lawn and the clusters of sunny daffodils all around town. And summer. Wasn’t summer her favorite time of the year? Mac took a happy, deep breath and stomped two more good brown crunchy maple leaves.
A small blue car drove slowly down the street and turned into Mac’s driveway. Mac waved and danced across the lawn. “Hi, Donni! Hi, Mrs. Arthur!” she called.
Mrs. Arthur opened the car door and climbed out, “Hi, there, Mac,” she said with a smile. “I’ve brought a book for your mom. You and Donni can hang out together for a little while.”
Mac circled the car and looked at Donni who still sat glumly seat belted in the backseat. Mac pressed her nose against the car window. “Are you getting out?” she asked.
Donni nodded. She unfastened the seat belt, opened the car door, and slid slowly off the seat.
“What’s the matter?” Mac asked. “You look terrible!”
“I’m mad at my mother,” Donni answered, a gigantic frown furrowed her forehead. “She said since I didn’t clean my room when she told me to, that I would be grounded. I’ll probably be grounded forever. And now I have to go with her to run stupid errands. I hate running errands.” Donni scraped her toe back and forth on the ground. “What an ugly day!”
Mac laughed. “It’s a beautiful day!” she exclaimed. “Fall is my favorite time of the year. Why didn’t you clean your room when your mother told you to? Do you want to crunch leaves with me?”
Donni looked across to where the brown maple leaves dotted the grass. She sighed. “I’ll probably have to rake leaves, too, when we go home.”
Mac tipped her head to one side. “What’s wrong with raking leaves? I like to rake leaves. I make a big pile—Joseph usually helps me—and then we run and jump in them. It’s really fun. Don’t you do that?”
Donni shook her head. “I think raking leaves is hard and boring.” She leaned back against the car. “How come you’re always so happy?”
Mac studied her friend. She had the feeling that Donni’s question was an important one. She thought for a minute before answering. “I’m not always so happy,” she said quietly. “But I try to find the happy side. Almost everything has a happy side. Like cleaning my room—I don’t always like doing it, but I try to think about how good it will look when I’m done and how happy I’ll be then. And I always am happy when it’s done!” she added with a grin.
Donni shrugged her shoulders. “It’s not that easy,” she mumbled.
Mac looked at her friend slouching against the car. “Stand up straight!” she ordered.
Donni’s eyes opened wide. She leaned away from the car, straightened her spine, and stared at Mac.
“Now, repeat after me,” Mac continued. “I am very happy today. It’s a beautiful day, and I am going to be very happy.”
“What?” Donni sputtered.
“Just say it!” Mac commanded. “Say, ‘I am going to be very happy today!’ ”
“I am going to be very happy today,” Donni whispered.
“No!” Mac interrupted. “Shout it!”
“You’re crazy!” Donni said. Then she took a deep breath. “I am going to be very happy today!” she shouted. A robin peeped in alarm and flew out of the maple tree.
Mac grinned. “You feel better already, don’t you?” she asked.
Donni grinned back. “Yeah. Maybe I do.”
“It’s a secret my dad told me,” Mac explained. “He said we can choose how we are going to feel. We just choose. Sort of like picking out what we want to wear in the morning.”
Donni wrinkled her nose. “I don’t think that will work for me.”
“Of course it will!” Mac planted her hands on her hips. “When you are mad, you just say to yourself that you are choosing not to be mad. You are choosing to be happy. You can at least try it!”
“OK, OK, OK!” Donni exclaimed. She paused. “I am very happy today,” she said softly.
“Louder!” Mac reminded her.
“I am very happy today!” Donni said more loudly. She shut her eyes. “I am very happy today!” she yelled.
The back door of the house swung open, and Mrs. Arthur’s head poked out. “Is everything all right out here?” she called.
“Everything’s perfect!” Mac called back. She grabbed Donni’s hand. Let’s go stomp leaves!”