When I was little I had a climbing tree. It was a Florida Holly which grew at the edge of our backyard. And it was mine. It probably wasn’t much to look at, but for me that tree was tall and wide and IMMENSE. And in its presence I was no longer just a little girl. I was Robin Hood hiding from huntsmen. I was a circus acrobat swinging with the greatest of ease. I was Pocahontas living in the teepee of its branches my father had trimmed. My tree was the place I first learned I was strong, that I could trust myself to climb high. In its branches, I was tall and great and immense too.
That tree is like a breath that flows through every memory of my early childhood. Memories of collecting tadpoles from the lake, digging holes in my mother’s garden (which were the beginnings of tunnels to China), playing hide-and-seek with my little brother…in all these memories my climbing tree stands in the background. Like the presence of a parent, it watched over me and was waiting for me with its branches open wide.
We all have these places, these tiny places from our past that we loved, that provided everything we needed. Places that were quiet. Places where we found adventure and a place for our imagination.
Many years later, long after we had moved away and I had grown up, I drove by my old house and saw someone had cut down my climbing tree. I was sad, but then, time softens such things. What I felt instead–and what I still feel when I think about my tree–is a deep nostalgia that a great being from my childhood is gone. An intangible melancholy that my climbing tree no longer stands in the background of my life watching over me, waiting for me. That all things pass away.
This is the way of the world. And maybe that’s how we become adults, we feel the threads from our childhoods slowly stretch by Time and Experience. Begin to fray. And eventually break. We let them go, and we Rejoice that once, they were ours.
I have seen many extraordinary places in the world, but none sit so close to my heart as my climbing tree.
Where was your special childhood place?