A tree is one of nature’s greatest wonders. They provide shade when it’s hot, firewood when it’s cold and shelter when it rains.
Trees give us oxygen for our atmosphere, structure for our homes, and act as God‘s paintbrush every fall.
Imagine if trees could somehow communicate. They would tell us everything they’ve witnessed during their existence, from local history to more intimate scenes like children hiding their eyes while counting down during games of Hide and Seek.
Without fanfare, trees become part of a family’s heritage.
Over the years it has been the background for numerous photos. Every event from Sarah’s first communion, to Kristen’s first day of school, to Matt‘s high school graduation has at least one picture with the neighborhood’s senior member standing watch.
We’ve had block parties and cookouts in its shade, and generations of squirrels and birds have called it home. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to retrieve a ball from its branches, and I’ve played catch with Matt, watched Kristen ride her scooter, and taught Sarah how to ride a bike beneath the limbs that reach well across the sidewalk.
It has become part of our identity as a family; a silent, proud parent and friend.
On a less personal scale, I am sure it has played the same role for others that have lived where we do now. I am guessing, based on its size, that the tree is well over 100 years old.
If that is the case, this tree has stood during some pretty historical moments in our city’s (Oswego, NY) and country’s histories.
If it had ears, it would have heard the cannons being fired annually at the fort, and the whistles of steam engines as this nation developed in the twentieth century.
What a great life story it could tell.
Unfortunately, it is a story whose final chapter is being written this week.
Over the past five or six years some sort of insect has been making its home in the base of the maple. While the worst things other residents of the tree have done is partially eaten its leaves or nibbled at its samaras (we’ve always called them helicopters), this particular inhabitant has bored holes and literally eaten away half of the trunk, leaving a pile of sawdust on the ground.
The damage is irreparable and we had no choice but to have our noble friend taken down.
We’re losing a part of our family.
If my tall friend could talk, somehow I think he’d tell me that it’s ok, and that he’s had a good long life. He’d probably go so far as to thank me for keeping the grass around him cut, and for watering the ground during those extended dry spells in summer.
My thanks to him would take much longer. I’d thank him for keeping my kids cool in the summer and dry in the rain. I’d tell him how much I appreciated his patience in letting them kick their soccer balls and throw their snowballs against his trunk. As if that weren’t enough, he offered plenty of bark to pick and a nice rest stop for every dog that walked by.
I would want him to know that whether he realized it or not, he is part of memories for all five of us.
After this week, pictures of our house will never quite be the same. The front lawn is going to see a lot more sun in the summer and snow in the winter, and our plot of land will have a little less character.
We’ll still have our cookouts, and life’s special events will keep arriving. They’ll just occur without our old landmark.
The silver lining is that we have the photos and the recollections of days gone by. They will live as long as we do.
After all, in this world memories last forever, trees do not.