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A Scrappy Little Crab in Darien

November 7, 2018

This tree lives in our backyard, standing sentry at the border between standard-issue carpet-grass lawn and a riot of fringe woodland that spills over from the cemetery behind us.Through 22 seasons it has stood scrappy, happy and reaching for the sky.

I don’t think it’s anything horticulturally noteworthy although every other year this crabapple tree graces us with a bounty of blossoms that foretells the amount of tiny, hard fruit we can expect in the fall.Fruit that will drop and ferment beneath its boughs, providing us with an aroma of apple cider gone bad and, every once in a while, a squirrel three sheets to the wind and swaying in the calm autumn air.What this crab tree does have in spades are three sturdy trunks, and an open invitation to climb.

All three of our kids grew up hanging from its limbs and resting in its shade, but this crab became known as Genna’s Tree.There was nothing to keep Gen from climbing its trio of trunks and disappearing into the leafy cover high above. She was the Cheshire Cat of the Crab Apple Tree; to find her smile was to find her halfway to the stars on its woodland rungs.

In an even exchange of energy, both little girl and little tree grew stronger every year.

Hot summers found us dodging Crab’s branches bent nearly to the ground and heavy with fruit.We danced in, under and around them knowing those branches would spring back up into the sky when the fruit hit the ground with the onset of winter.

In later years, Gen and her brothers would hang hammocks from Crab’s branches and rest, even spend the night, anchored to its strength.When his big sister left for college, little brother would climb into Crab’s crown to prune deadened limbs and lighten its load.

The kids are out on their own now, so there’s no one to kick out of the house with an order to go climb the tree and get rid of some energy.But the old crab still beckons through the kitchen window. So I meander out to walk under its branches raining flower petals down in the spring.I dip and bob beneath its fruit-laden boughs in the summer.And in the winter I trace its branches high into the sky looking for signs of next season’s green.

It’s still growing strong, this scrappy little tree that beckons from the edge of the lawn and childhoods past.And holds the laughter of children between the rustling of its leaves, and the love of a little girl deep in its roots.

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