Friday, August 12, 2011

Good to the Last Toothpick

My folks bought their first home when I was in sixth grade and my brother in fifth.What a thrill to live somewhere that was all ours. No landlord to appease, no fear of moving on to another house, another school, a new set of friends...or maybe no new friends and lasting loneliness. We moved a lot before they bought that house.

It was a nice little place.

There was a teen-aged Norway maple in the front yard and a medium-sized silver maple in the back. He claimed the front tree and I chose the one behind the house.

We were arboreal kids. (And eagerly aquatic and active land mammals as well. No computers, no TV most of the time. When we played, we played outdoors.)

We climbed those trees. A lot. Hung tire swings from gnarly old ropes. Swung upside down by scabby knees; played Tarzan. Remember that wonderfully satisfying Tarzan yell?. Listened to our first cardinals, learned about bugs and squrrels, and dreamed our dreams. Who needs playground equipment if they have a good tree?

I read books up in my tree...that one branch was the perfect height for a not so tall, scrawny kid to grab hold and swing up to perch out of sight and out of mind among the limbs. There was a good spot to sit and a better one to belly sprawl, arms and legs hanging down like a lounging lion.

The tire swing was a horse....many horses....all kinds of horses. I was born with an admiration for all things equine, and suffered from acute horse envy for many years.....who knew I would end up with cows?

My mind has been full of stories since I first learned words so when I ran out of books the stories played out in the tree or on the swing.

I loved that tree.

However, as kids tend to, we grew up, outgrew trees, tire swings, and childish fantasies and turned to other things. Got jobs and cars and real horses and new lives.

The trees grew huge. The Norway tangled the power lines and finally succumbed to whatever kills heavily pruned roadside maple trees.

The silver maple morphed into a staggeringly huge monster tree. Even if I were still 11 and skinny and agile there were no more inviting limbs, calling me to climb. Instead it began to shed limbs in ice storms and wind storms and even just at random. It overshadowed the folks' yard like a deadly wooden thundercloud.

It had to come down. And a couple of years ago, courtesy of a tree service, it lost its last leaves, shed its final samaras, and died the honorable death of an old tree.

There was so much light, fluffy wood after the brother and family split it up that the folks yard was half buried in it. Finally a couple of weeks ago, it was decided that there would be a wood lift. All day trucks run by family members shuttled piles and piles to our side yard.

Then the boss and Alan and I loaded the skid steer with buckets full and shifted most of it up to the stove.

I built a fire the next morning and since that day I have always had hot water. For someone who heats water with wood and hardly ever actually has any wood, it has been the most amazing luxury imaginable. Hot showers, hot dish water...all I can boggles the mind.

And all I have to do to have it is to pile about two bushels of the soft, light wood into the stove each morning and walk away.

Each morning I am thankful. To mom and dad for letting me have the wood. To brother, family and everyone who spent a whole Sunday dragging me wood. They had better things to do, but did it anyhow.

And I am thankful too, to that old tree, which has given its all to me for nearly fifty years....good to the last toothpick. What a grand old plant it was.


Cathy said...

I think I'd cry if I weren't smiling so broadly at this lovely, lovely paen to that noble tree.

Anonymous said...

There is still more up here waiting to be transported to your abode. Send a truck and strong arms and the waiting pile by the chicken house is yours for hot water and other delacacies. Love Mom & Dad

dickiebo said...

Dani said...

Ditto Cathy!

I was very lucky to have a childhood very close to yours. It was a gift that I could be outside all day playing. I wish my Dad had lived long enough so I could have told him as an adult what a great job he did by me and my brothers.

Rev. Paul said...

That brought back so many happy memories.

Woodswalker said...

A beautiful story, so evocative to me, who also spent most of her childhood outdoors. Thanks for this.

Crystal Cattle said...

What a cool post. I am so glad that the tree has been able to bring you so many wonderful memories. I am sure your dad knows what a great you guys done!

Paintsmh said...

The wishing tree...

June said...

I remember Good Old Trees like I remember Childhood Dogs. this brought me pretty close to "weepy."

Linda said...

Ditto what Cathy said too! What a great tribute!

threecollie said...

Cathy, thank you. It was amazingly special to me when I was a place, if you know what I mean. Sort of a retreat.

Mom and Dad, thank you. It is so nice to have hot water, I just can't tell you.

Dickiebo, thank you! That is an absolutely perfect delight! I must have listened to it a dozen times

Dani, so sorry that he isn't here to know, although I think he probably does know. You must miss him terribly. I am so lucky to have my Mom and Dad

Rev. Paul thanks, I'm glad

WW, thanks! So many of today's kids miss that connection. Technology is a poor substitute for nature.

CC, thanks so much for your kind words and thank you for visiting.

Liz, yes.......

June, until it became my source of firewood I don't think I quite remembered all it had been to me...

LIlnda, thank you so much.