The cornerstone of every successful childhood is a really amazing tree. For me, growing up in Naperville, it was the weeping willow across the yards behind my house. It was a big tree, it had to have been at least thirty feet tall with strong, expansive branches. The trunk was thick, without a lot of knots for for climbing, but the willow had a perfect foothold just high enough that if you jumped you could reach it and pull yourself up.
All the neighborhood kids spent hours in that tree. It was tall enough to keep out the little kids, and we could climb almost all the way to the top and sideways to spread out on the branches. I don't think we even knew the neighbors whose tree it was, and no one ever yelled at us for climbing in it. It had to have been a magic tree.
It's been almost thirty years since I've climbed that weeping willow, but I hope it's still there. Living in Plainfield as an adult, there aren't as many big old trees to explore. And even if there are, they are fenced into yards, held captive from roaming children. But now that our house has been here about twenty years, we have a maple tree in our front yard that is just big enough for my boys to climb. I look forward to the memories they will make of their climbing tree.