My life is dotted with the memories of certain trees. Yes, trees, those so beautifully described by Joyce Kilmer.
The first tree that had special meaning was a huge oak tree on Grandview Avenue in Beckley, WV.
I was about 7 or 8 and played with two slightly older boys – Dicky Guy and Billy Richmond. We played three things back then – Army, Navy and Air Force. We shot attacking German infantrymen, we fired torpedoes at imaginary U-Boats and faced intense air battles with Jap Zeros. When we played Air Force, we climbed the big tree. It was a bit of a step to the first major branch, then we scooted out to various limbs, each with a special vantage point. It was our flying fortress and we spent untold hours in our imaginary B-29.
The next tree that comes to mind was a maple tree in our front yard on Court Street in Lewisburg, WV. We rented that house when we first moved from Beckley and lived there several years until Mom and Dad had finished building our family home on Mary’s Lane. The tree was beautiful like no other I have ever seen.
It had vivid, scarlet leaves that tumbled down in huge piles every October. We often raked the leaves into 6-foot mounds, then took running leaps to dive in. On the weekend, Daddy would rake the leaves to the edge of the road and burn them. The sky above Lewisburg was filled with the haunting aroma of burning leaves. It marked the coming of fall and football games, squirrel hunts and trudging behind bird dogs on the scent of quail. Those were great years, and that maple tree kindled great memories.
Skipping forward a few years, another tree stands out. Newlyweds, Nancy and I had bought our first house on Commonwealth Drive in Charlottesville and had Angelin, then Jimmie. When Angelin was about 4, she discovered the big silver maple tree in our front yard. The child could climb trees like a monkey, and this was her favorite tree. One morning, we got a call from Teresa Davis, our neighbor across the street. They had a split foyer home, and she was calling from the upper level. She told Nancy she was looking eyeball to eyeball with a small child across the street in a tree about 75 feet off the ground.
Nancy called to Angelin, and she shimmied right down. That tree anchors the many memories of a young couple starting a family, and the beginning of a long journey.
Just yesterday, another tree entered the lineup of recollections. When we moved to our current home on Brentwood Road, some 48 years back, there were 18 trees in our yard, mostly small trees planted a few years earlier when our home was built. There were three dogwood trees in the front yard. About 20 years ago, a teenage driver dispatched one of the dogwood trees when she was looking in every direction except where she was driving. Then, there were two dogwoods. One had white blossoms, the other pink. We noticed the second dogwood struggling to put leaves on each branch about 10 years ago. The tree guys would all stop by, offering to take it down, but we kept pruning branches until the tree finally quit. Then, we took it down.
I noticed yesterday that the top limb in the remaining dogwood was dead. The other limbs will slowly follow suit. But we will keep the tree going as long as it will. We have lived behind the shade of those dogwoods for nearly 50 years and there are many, many memories that come with that and all the other trees of our lives.
I think that I shall never see, a poem so lovely as a tree.