My parents moved onto their Tinley Park half-acre lot when I was two years old. Toward the center of the backyard was an old silver maple. Its trunk measured at least three feet in diameter. In my early memories, it was bordered with a square of what I considered to be railroad ties from antiquity. Over the past three decades, its border has changed, with an endless variety of flowers and plants decorating its roots.
This tree was a faithful landmark of my childhood. I spent hours at its base digging in the dirt and mindlessly swinging in the repurposed tire hung by a rope from its steady branch reaching out over the yard. It was the host of more than a decade of June birthday parties, graduations, and backyard sporting events. As a teenager, I walked countless footsteps round and round my trusty maple with a wireless phone to my ear and a best friend on the other end.
I thought I had reached the pinnacle of our relationship as my silver-leafed friend stood noble and tall, witnessing as I declared my wedding vows to my new husband. After moving to the barren desert of Southern California I discovered just how much I treasured the presence of my Midwest tree. No desert brush could come close to the comfort of my backyard giant.
A decade later I have returned to Tinley Park, and my two young children are now playing and growing in the shade of the ever-faithful silver maple. My parents will be retiring shortly with a move on their horizon. My heart is learning the days are few for me and my dear old friend. From my early digs to my wedding day, I suppose all I will have left is the faithfulness of my memories.