She stood tall. She nurtured our family and gave us a serenity that I think we failed to notice at the time. She lived a good life before she fell. She was the old mulberry tree that grew in the circle of grass that held the memories of our family. She was my friend.
It is difficult to remember when I first became aware of that old tree. The thick trunk supported the long branches that shaded the grass. Dad tied a swing to one of the branches on the west side of the tree. A rope and a board. A place where little toddlers pushed off with chubby legs and big sisters pushed them when they were a bit older. The leaves provided a canopy that became a place for dress up and make believe weddings. Oh, how I loved that tree.
Old pictures cover decades of family activity. An old picture of my uncle, grandfather and dad playing croquet beneath that old tree. Their old cars parked beneath to keep them cool on a hot summer day. The tree in the background of a picture of my mother and my aunt astride horses. A new barn being built, looking at the old tree which was looking back and welcoming it to the farm. An old tree. A tree we took for granted.
There wasn’t a day that the old tree didn’t participate in my life. All of our special pictures were taken beneath that tree. We swung on a trapeze that hung on the east side of the tree. We picnicked beneath its shade, and younger generations would pick up the mallets and continue the game playing as the tree stood by.
Sometimes we don’t miss something until it is gone. Dad eventually chopped down that sweet tree. Limbs were falling from its weary trunk. After it had fallen, the barnyard seemed bare. A friend, a playmate, a family member had left us. No longer would a small child pick the empty shells of the locust from its bark. No longer would the shade draw us to the yard. A friend had left us.
Perhaps the poetic side of me saw that tree as more than wood and leaves. It was a living, breathing tree that grew new branches as our family grew older years. It was as much a part of our childhoods as were the members of our family. We mourned when the old tree died. We were conservators of the land and had to terminate a dear life.
Trees, flowers, creeks and ponds, fields of grain, dung beetles, barn owls. All of them and more were a richness in my life. Then I appreciated them. Now I know the importance of them. She stood tall. She nurtured our family and gave us serenity. And, in her passing, she remained in my heart.