Of course, just in Lima alone, there must be tens of thousands of trees. Periodically working in the yard, I know how easily a tree can grow. All it really takes is a squirrel, a desire to bury an acorn for future consumption, a little rain and, voila, you’ve got yourself a sprout. I’m constantly pulling them out of the beds that surround the house. But, some trees are just different, and certainly the subject of my offering this week isn’t noteworthy to anyone but me.
No, it isn’t the Arbol del Tule, a cypress in Mexico know for having the strongest trunk in the world, a tree estimated to be as old as 3,000 years.
And, mine also isn’t The Major Oak, located in the heart of England’s Nottinghamshire, the tree, according to folklore, where Robin Hood and his merry band once convened, a tree thought to be around 1,000 years old.
It also certainly wouldn’t be the oft-photographed tree I saw on a trip to northern California a couple of years ago, one off the famous 17-Mile Drive near Monterey on a jetty overlooking the deep blue waters of the Pacific, a tree estimated at 250 years called The Lone Cypress.
No, my tree hasn’t been around 3,000, 1,000 or even 250 years and certainly hasn’t been a destination point for even one sojourner. The tree, at least for the next few weeks, has stood where it has for the past 30 years, just north of my house.
The reason I know precisely the age is I remember planting it after my younger daughter Katie brought it home, actually, one of two, in Dixie cups, to acknowledge Arbor Day, from her St. Charles second-grade class. Sometime, before the first snow falls, the tree will face its execution in the form of a chain saw.
While the other sprig I planted from one of those Dixie cups is doing fine, properly placed in the backyard far enough from the house to grow more than 30 years to a pine cone-producing behemoth that now has upper bows some 20 or so feet above the roof of my two-story abode, the other tree, poorly placed by me, started its slow march to extinction over time. You see, each fall once it grew to a certain height, I had to rely on my own meager pruning abilities to keep it from growing into some telephone wires above.
And, over time, I pruned too poorly and too much. Eventually, a dead limb grew to two and then three. Now, while still green in places, it really has reached the point of no return, an opinion validated by my friend John Sreenan, the driving force behind a local company, Northwest Property Maintenance, that does excellent work keeping the outdoors in good stead. So, John and his crew will indeed take it down this fall.
I remember pretty vividly the day a gap-toothed and ponytailed little girl stood beside me when I dug a hole and dropped it in the ground, after which she gave the sprig its first drink of water from a sprinkler can. Having no way to determine if it would grow at all or how tall, I knew I’d possibly have to keep it pruned. It was a tree Katie watered regularly in its early stages in those days before volleyball, softball and, eventually, boys became higher priorities.
For me, someone so tethered in many ways to the past, someone who still has so many childhood pictures throughout the house of Katie and sister Shannon, and someone who even now can’t bring himself to empty out the clutter of a basket full of squirt guns and roller skates and softball cleats under the basement stairs, as if one of my two beautiful young women who now call Columbus their home suddenly will burst through the door and say, “Hey, Dad. Have you seen my Super Soaker?” the tree’s demise is so very sad.
When it was a newly planted sprig, there were pigtails and missing baby teeth and butterfly cheeky kisses. And, for those of you who may see my musings as those of an old sentimental fool, you’d be right … and also probably someone who doesn’t miss so very much the single-digit years of those you raised.
While, as is the case with all great literature, author Betty Smith’s 1943 tale “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” the story of a girl coming of age at the turn of the 20th century, will continue to sprout buds every spring as new readers discover the book, there’s another tree close to my heart that has seen its last buds. And, the day it’s taken, I won’t be home.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected]