Monday, April 30, 2012

Tree Memories

The Spring days are growing warmer, school children are wrapping up the final events of the academic year, and my thoughts are turning toward summer. I decided to reprint a blog I posted quite some time ago on my previous website. If you were a tomboy as I was, you might have enjoyed tree-climbing, and this topic might resonate with you.
As a child I never consciously thought much about trees. Not being a budding arborist (okay, it was a lousy pun!), I grew up taking our few trees for granted in spite of the fact that I lived in a flat, practically tree-less part of the state of Texas.
However, I do find it interesting that so many of my childhood memories revolve around trees. Until I was about five, we had a row of two or three large elm trees west of our house. My swings and sand pile were under those trees so I spent most of my time playing underneath them in a shaded world of make-believe. My older sister and her friend Vondell climbed our trees, mostly I think to get away from me. At least, they did until they came eyeball to eyeball with a praying mantis, and I think that brought their tree-climbing practices to a screeching halt. But I was too little for tree-climbing, and I don’t remember experiencing that particular adventure until after our elms were taken down.

By that time, the Stapletons had purchased the house across the street from mine and they not only had a playmate my age, but they had TREES! There were three satisfactory elm trees in a row lining their driveway. The one nearest to the garage was just exactly the right size and shape for climbing, and it wasn’t long before Jeanne and I were retreating up into its leafy hideaway. There, we sometimes escaped from her younger sister, just as my sister and her friends had hidden from me. But we usually included the little one ~ Jeanne’s mom made us.
It was a retreat where we found respite from the summer heat, where we dreamed dreams about what we wanted to be when we grew up (I’m still searching that one out!). We made plans, shared whispered secrets, and observed the neighborhood from our safe perch. Occasionally we discovered we were sharing our tree house with insects and critters, and we had our share of skinned knees from climbing up and down on the rough bark. But it was mostly a comfortable place to while away the summer hours.
One memorable summer, we decided to host a talent show (comprised of the much-sought-after talents of Jeanne, Joanne, and Judy). We had visions of selling tickets to our entire neighborhood and making a “bunch” of money. Billing ourselves as “The Three J’s” (a cleverly unique name that should have rivaled the Supremes) we prepared for opening night. Carefully, we hand-printed tickets and programs. Each of the three of us practiced the acts we would perform to dazzle our audience. We contracted with Jeanne’s mom to provide refreshments. On the night of the big performance, we placed a row of folding chairs just west of the big tree. Pushed up against the tree, facing the chairs, we positioned a long wooden table that was to be our stage.
The plan was that we would climb up the tree on the opposite side, and when it was our turn to perform, we would come out of the tree onto the stage and wow any talent scouts that might be lurking on the lawn. (We figured after this debut, we would definitely be asked to appear on the Ed Sullivan show!)
As I recall, the audience consisted of the Stapletons, my parents, both our grandmothers, and one gullible neighbor who couldn’t find a good excuse not to come. We Three J’s performed our little hearts out, amid thundering applause. It was a heady experience.
What good times we had! Television sets and Nintendo games were no comparison with our active imaginations.
There was another significant tree in our neighborhood. It grew across the street from the Methodist Parsonage, right next to the road. The Y of the tree was low enough to the ground that we kids could easily reach it. There was a hollowed out place that was a perfect spot for leaving messages or hiding things. Some super sleuths from Petersburg Elementary spent their summers stealthily passing secret messages to one another through the hidden hollow in that tree.
I can also remember picking up pecans under my Uncle Clyde’s towering pecan trees down the street. My Grandmother, Blanche Martin, also had a large pecan tree in her yard on Main Street. I remember having picnics in her yard underneath the shade of that tree, which my dad told me was the first pecan tree planted in Petersburg (he had planted it himself as a boy.)
Now that I have moved back to Petersburg some fifty years since the Three Js had their opening night, I am once again enthralled with my trees. I have two large pecan trees that my Dad nurtured for many years. And I love to hear the West Texas wind sighing through the pine tree in my front yard. Okay, so we don’t have many trees around here. But ah, the joy of the ones we do have!
So what are YOUR memories of trees?

copyright 2007, Judy Martin Bowyer


Amy Nicole said...

The sweet gum tree in our front yard that started pretty small and by the time I came home from college could shade our entire front lawn. Mom and Dad always said "Look at the pretty tree!" a thousand times in the Fall. I use to roll my eyes and be so annoyed and wonder what their obsession was with trees changing color! I simply didn't get it.

Years later, and after living in the Northeast for 8 Fall seasons, I have succumbed to this weird obsession and plan my time off to coincide with the exact "peak" of color change in Vermont, take my mom and husband (and any other tagalongers I can find) to drive up north and show them all the "pretty trees" I can find!

Funny how that happens...

Judy Martin Bowyer said...

Nicole, you are indeed my child; you can't escape! Thanks for the comment; I should have included that sweet gum tree as well as the magnolia tree we bought in Houston and carried to West Texas in the backseat of a Volkswagen in 1972! J.B.

Nonnie said...

I love trees too. And Sweet Gum trees. (Your old friend, Connie)