One of my hikes around the county with my camera inspired this story. I took a photo of a tree for my friend, Merianne, who likes “interesting trees with a story behind them”. Although not a particularly good picture, she liked it, and it spoke to something inside of me. Connie, the friend who showed me the house, mentioned in passing that the former residents held ice cream socials there. The rest grew from my imagination, and a desire to give the tree, and my friends, a story.
A little tree was planted in the yard of a big house, a long time ago. It was coddled and petted at first, because it was traumatized by having been dug up from where it had sprouted from a seed and moved here. It was carefully watered and staked against the winds that would blow it over. Time passed, and autumn came. The little tree’s leaves turned brown and fell off, and were blown away by the wind. Winter arrived, with the snow and cold, and the little tree slept, but its roots were growing, stronger and deeper, taking water and food from the ground around it.
In the spring, the world, and the little tree woke up, and everything turned green. The new grass grew, and the flowers bloomed, and the little tree put out new leaves, more than it had last year. At the big house, a new bride was carried, smiling, over the threshold. Soon, at least by the way trees reckon time, a new baby was born. This baby was followed by others, and before many years had passed, the big house rang with the laughter of children.
All the time, the little tree grew bigger. Its branches grew longer, and thickened, and spread shade over its part of the yard. The children played under it — little boys with toy soldiers, and little girls with their dolls. A swing was hung on one of the tree’s branches, and the children played there for hours on end. Men came with saws and trimmed the trees branches, but it was winter and the tree slept, and by the time it woke in the spring, its wounds were healed and it put out new growth and cast shade again.
There were parties held beneath the tree’s canopy — ice cream socials and Sunday dinners. The children grew up, and courted under its branches. A wedding was held there, and another, and the children were gone. No one played under the tree, and the swing hung empty. But before too long, there were other children, babies on blankets one summer, and toddlers on the grass the next. Soon the swing was in use again and the children were big enough to climb into the trees branches.
Then, one crisp autumn morning as the tree was preparing for its winter sleep, wails of grief split the air. The man who had once carried his bride into the house was carried out, feet first. He was followed by his bride, now bent with age and sorrow, supported by her adult children. As was customary in times of mourning, the neighbors brought food to the family. The picnic set under the tree was subdued, the children shushed when they became loud.
Soon after, one of the younger families moved into the house with the old woman. The tree slept as the children played in the snow around it. Even nature seemed to be mourning the man who had died. The snow turned to ice and the family’s vehicles couldn’t make it to the house. This arrangement of families only lasted until summer. The house was old, outdated, and hard to heat; the family wanted something newer. Men came with trucks and moved the family’s possessions out, and the tree passed the summer in the silence of the empty yard.
For a few years, someone came to cut the grass, but eventually that stopped. No one trimmed the trees’ branches and, one by one, they sickened and died, falling unheeded to the ground. The branch that held the swing fell and ropes, swing and branch lay rotting in the high grass. The wind tore off part of the roof, and the elements had their way with the house. One day, a great splintering sound was heard, and the back of the house caved in, leaving a gaping hole where there had once been a bustling kitchen.
So it stands today, the front a testimony to the grandeur it once possessed, the back a ruin, open to the elements. The tree stands in a weed-choked yard, fallen branches littering the ground beneath it, but still reaching for the sky.