Though I don’t know how old our magnolia tree is, its broad stature and comfortable demeanor allows me to dream that it’s been there forever. In 20-some years growing up in Glen Ellyn, our saucer magnolia has presided over our back yard with some semblance of grandiosity, which is likely due to our immense fondness for it.
The magnolia tree has created a space to gather under. Our tree has watched over our lives unknowingly, yet consistently. It’s seen neighborhood gatherings, birthday parties, tiny humans evolving into children, dusk ghost-in-the-graveyard games, Easter egg hunts, somber family gatherings, thousands of squirrels, long nights of laughter, wild Halloween parties, graduation celebrations, many hours of shoveling, and so much more. I can only imagine the secrets it holds from watching over those before us, and the stories it’s yet to observe in the future.
The magnolia tree has inspired growth. Our tree was a playground--I’ve touched so many of those branches and would come close to tears when it was time to trim away the dead branches (for fear of losing access to certain parts of the tree).
We were shaken with distress when it developed spots many years ago--a disease of sorts--but we were calmed when staff at The Morton Arboretum were able to identify it as magnolia scale disease and instruct us on how to care for it.
The tree persisted as we grew around it. We carefully added an addition onto the house that didn’t disrupt the tree, yet gave us a larger space to enjoy its canopy.
The magnolia tree has ingrained a sense of familiarity and comfort. That well-known smell will always take me back to the excitement of spring following a long, bitter winter. Underneath the magnolia, there’s that cool breeze you get on a steamy midsummer day. There are memories that pull at the heartstrings, like your mom saying, carefully, “You know, when it blooms out of season, someone who has passed is saying hello.”
Though I lived on the East Coast for some time and now reside on the West Coast, I’m so thankful that I’ve managed to remain within the growth zones of the saucer magnolia. I love this time of year when I see the buds breaking through and smell the sweet blooms as I bike through my new city. I find myself exploring new neighborhoods in search of my favorite tree and others that I love, and just being a bit more cognizant of my surroundings.
Someday, I hope to have a magnolia tree of my own, where I can build upon the traditions that are instilled in its roots.