Trees have always been an important part of my life, especially during my childhood.
I grew up on Orchard Drive, and there were several pear trees in rows in our front yard, as well as in our neighbors’ front yards. In the spring there were beautiful blossoms to see and smell. In the summer I climbed up and sat in a tree to view life from a different vantage point. One of my summer jobs was to pick smashed pears off the ground, using a barbecue fork and tongs to avoid getting stung by bees and wasps.
We also had two large weeping willows in our backyard. Many of the long tendrils would drop during winter, creating a mess to clean up every spring. It was my job to prune the trees during the summer. My technique was to jump up, grab a bunch of branches with my left hand, pull it down, and then cut them with the pruner in my right hand. My friend and I played dolls under the back willow, which I let grow down to the ground and then cut out a door to make a house that swayed in the breeze.
My grandparents lived a block away from us in an oak forest. In the early 1940s, they bought two wooded lots on a corner and built a Cape Cod house on the back of the first lot, because my grandfather wanted a sweeping front lawn. The second lot became the backyard and part of the side yard. Every spring wildflowers emerged through the grass and then disappeared in summer. We played softball in the front yard, hitting away from the house and using trees as bases. They had an outdoor fireplace with a pile of fallen dead branches nearby, which we used to make fires to roast hot dogs and marshmallows. Every fall we raked leaves and jumped in them. Looking back I’m not sure how much help we were.