Our white ash tree stands tall, strong and solitary in our backyard in a neighborhood otherwise devoid of ash trees, devastated by the emerald ash borer and drastic removal initiatives. It took years of proactive measures to combat the emerald ash borer which certainly tried to wreak its havoc on our tree, but today it stands tall and provides the glorious shade in the summer and the brilliant yellow canopy in the fall. We had to save our tree because it is more than a tree providing shade and a tapestry of colors. It is itself a tapestry of memories.
30 years ago it supported a homemade swing with ropes held by small, young hands gripping in delight as Daddy pushed the children and Mommy stood in front faking being chased as they swung toward her. Laughter from the children, quiet happiness in Dad and Mom, reveling in the joy of the moment and as yet-unaware of the deep bonds it created – between our kids and us…between us…and with our tree.
That same swing even provided a place to me to sit while tending to the barbecue grill, and yes, even swing like a carefree ten-year-old with the weight of the job, the mortgage, and the adult responsibilities temporarily muted. Sanity and peace engendered by our tree.
As the years advanced, the ropes dug so deeply into the branch that they became enveloped by the branch, which continued to grow and strengthen…just like the children who swung from its powerful arm even into their teenage years. And like the branch which became impressed with the rope, they developed fond impressions of times with Dad and Mom, and with their friends. Simple times but wonderful simplicity, shaded and supported by our tree.
Even when the leaves fell, sometimes in only one cold and windy weekend, and the autumnal chore of raking the leaves was suddenly thrust upon me, the children marveled in the shapes and colors of the leaves and delighted in spreading the piles of my work back across the lawn. And so did I, my act of exasperation exposed by the twinkle in my eye and my catching them in a hug. Fun and pure enjoyment, initiated by our tree.
And now my first grandchild is in his second year of marveling at our ash tree, eyes wide open when he hears the loud crickets who make their temporary home in our tree, squeals of joy when the autumn leaves fall on his head (even more so when they fall on mine), and wondrous exploration of every surface of the leaves with his tiny hands. In the coming weeks, the leaves will fall and I will not rake them until he visits…because I now have the same joy that I experienced with my children awaiting me with my grandson. Joy because of our tree.
Yes, we had to save our ash tree. Because it is not just a tree. It’s a part of me.