Old Friends

The author, with her teddy bear, circa 1961 - trees behind her...

Many of the trees of my childhood home are gone now. They were very large and old oak and elm, surrounding our home like giant sentinels. They guarded us, a canopy providing cooling shade in summer, and with endless entertainment - from racing squirrels who sometimes had ferocious, chattering quarrels - to choruses of bird song from morning to night.  There wasn't an upstairs' window you could look out, without seeing a branches of trees nearby, curling around towards the house like hugs.

The rustling of their leaves could be soft and comforting with a breeze, or loud and threatening during a windstorm.  Strong winds would cause them to creak and snap; once during a storm of my early childhood, one of the mightiest and oldest oaks snapped in two about 12 feet up, thankfully falling away from the house. It lay there for many years, only its outstretched branches taken away.  I used it to play on, climbing on it higher and higher as I gained confidence.  Finally one day I got to the top and looked down on my mother hanging out clothes, calling down to her in victory.  It has been thrilling and at the same time terrifying, climbing up so high, but something inside me pushed me on to do it.

In winter, their branches were so bare in stark contrast to their heavy summer foliage.  Like giant shado puppets, they seemed to be in constant silhouette against the white, white snow.  They stood guard around the house, while their brethren in the woods to the north stood at the ready.  When it would get very, very cold, the trees would crack and boom.  The first time I heard them do that, it scared me and I asked my mother what that was and she explained.

Trees are more expressive than many people realize if they don't live among them all the time.  Especially the older, larger trees. There were many days and nights I heard the wind and trees make the most forlorn moaning and creaking sounds together. With the shorter days, it made for much melancholy even for a child. Spring became that much more sweet and meaningful after months of cold and short days.