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Monday, May 18, 2009

My Remembrance of Things Past


The tree is what I remember most about my childhood home. It was a tall, willowy elm thatgavesoft breezy relief to summer’s heat but railed against winter’s cold when ice coated its barren limbs, nearly forcing them to break rather than bend. I remember how its summer shadows covered the curving walkway that ran from our front porch steps to the sidewalk below and how I would roller skate down that walk, certain I was destined for roller derby stardom when I grew up.

In spring I’d eagerly await the tree’s sprouting of buds on its limbs that promised another year of shade. Most of the neighborhood kids equated the season with the coming of summer vacation with hours to while away doing not much of anything. I, instead, spent the time watching my tree for signs that the remnants of winter weather would soon turn warm enough to plant the flower seeds Mother had bought for me. The beds would be turned and made ready in the backyard, but it was the tree out front that signaled when the timing was right. If the tree had not yet put out buds then the ground out back would still be too cold for the seeds to sprout and all my work and planning would be in vain.
Once the flowers bloomed and my gardening chores were reduced to weekly watering and weed pulling, it was time to pull on the skates over last year’s weather beaten high-top Keds, tug the straps snug against my ankles, tighten the prongs over my toes with my skate key and take off down that long, curving walkway toward the sidewalk. I can still hear Mother shouting from behind the front screen door, “Now don’t go skating into the street. And don’t fall down and skin your knees again.” And of course, I’d occasionally gain too much speed, lose control, and go bounding right through the grassy parkway on the other side of the sidewalk and end up in the street. Skinned knees became my badge of honor.
After what seemed hours of rolling from the top of the walkway, making my smooth trademark turn onto the sidewalk, knees bent and body held low, I’d haul my sticky hot, tired body back up and onto the cool grass beneath my tree and lie on my back and dream. Looking up through those leaves that waved and sometimes laughed at me, I dreamed big dreams of what life would be like when I grew up, all the while hoping not to grow up too fast.

But grow up I did, as we all do. I continued to dream, even after the roller skates were hung up and adult reason and responsibility took over my life. But they were no longer the dreams one dreams in childhood; not the dreams of a nine year old lying beneath an old elm tree and seeing the world as full of infinite possibilities.

Several years ago my husband and I went back to visit the hometown I’d left decades before. As we drove down my childhood’s street of dreams my anticipation heightened. Would the house look the same or would it seem much smaller than I remembered? Houses in which we’ve once lived always look smaller when we return to them. Would the front yard still be tended and would my tree still be helping to cool yet another hot, muggy June day?

I held my breath on approach but relaxed as the house came into view. Yes, it was still there. I pointed out which was my bedroom window and which was my brother’s. And yes, the house did seem smaller. The front yard looked much the same. My roller derby walkway heaved a bit and sported a few cracks, but it was as I remembered. But something wasn’t right. I scanned the yard once more and then it hit me. Where was my tree? My faithful, sturdy, tall and slender elm?

“To everything there is a season.” I’d had mine in this place of childhood wonderment as had my tree and now I was a child no longer just as my tree was no longer.
“Dutch elm disease”, I surmised as we eased away from the curb. But looking back as we headed down the street and back to our adult lives I swear I could see the remnants of Old Elm waving good-bye to me, ever so gently.

3 Comments:

Blogger Mickey said...

The same thing happened to the elms on the street where I grew up. They live only in my memory.

10:12 AM  
Blogger emmarose said...

I grew up in a new ‘development’ in greater Los Angeles … we had wee baby trees. Nothing the likes of what you describe here… I am a tad jealous!

new to Nixy's Wag

Brenda M,

11:57 AM  
Blogger Nancy J. Parra said...

Oh- lovely! My childhood home is now the driveway for a new strip mall-LOL. Everytime I go visit my grandparents I start to sing..."They paved paradise and put up a parking lot." :)

2:29 PM  

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