There was a tree outside my window in the house where I grew up. It was on the hill that went down to the road, and stood tall above the house on Lancaster Drive. Thick and strong at the base of the trunk, it branched out about ten feet above the ground into two smaller trunks and then began its myriad of division into branches and limbs and twigs and leaves. I can’t remember if it was a maple or an oak, but it was something that grew and had big leaves that fell each autumn. I probably have a picture or two that I took with my first camera that shows it in full leaf and bright greenness.
I haven’t lived in that house since 1995. But occasionally when I am in town to visit my family in Columbus and Phenix City I will go drive behind the K-Mart on Airport Thruway and drive past my house. The deck that my Father and Grandfather built together still stands on the rise behind the house. The bushes that we took the leaves to pretend were broccoli hollandaise still surround the front of the windows. The magnolia still sits right above the fire hydrant.
My tree is gone.
It no longer stands in the center of the yard, drawing attention and casting shade on the house. Instead a stump, ground level to the rest of the yard, and then later, sod covered even that. They took my tree down. Perhaps it was struck by lightning, had gotten a disease, or come loose from its roots. Maybe for the safety of the house they had to take it down.
But it was my tree. At my house. The house where I had girl scouts and learned to delve deep into a book and learned to cook and spent the night on the mayflower and sang musicals at the top of my lungs and had my two cats and now the tree is no longer there because it is no longer my house.
I really do love shade trees. I don’t care how much pollen they produce in springtime or how many piles of leaves they drop in the autumn, I love watching them grow and furl their leaves out and still remain strong through the cold winter when they stand deceptively bare. I love the shade they cast over a house, keeping us cool through the hot summers here in the south.
I loved that tree. I still miss it and it’s been nearly twenty years since I lived in that house.
For Sarah Grace.