Outside the front door of our old house stood a tree. It was a large tree with thick, strong branches that we could have touched by reaching out of our bedroom window. It was the kind of tree that might make you nervous given its size and its proximity to the house. It did make us nervous. When we first moved in, we considered having it cut down. In the midst of terrible storms, we’d eye it nervously. In the early days of our lives there, I used to plan out just how the tree might fall if it met the right strike of lightening or gust of wind with well placed strength.
But we didn’t cut it down. And it didn’t fall.
It stayed and it stayed strong. And, when our girl was born, it became a significant part of our lives. We’d spend hours in the morning, standing at our window, gazing out at that tree, swinging and swaying our fussy baby into a state of calm. We developed a routine with her of saying good morning to the tree. On summer afternoons, large pieces of colored chalk would find their way from the sidewalk to the tree’s massive trunk. Scribbles of pink and blue would decorate its bark until the next rain came and washed them away, leaving a fresh, blank canvas to be adorned.
It was our tree; woven into our family memories.
Yesterday, the tree came down.
The new owner had been told that the tree would disrupt the foundation of his new house. We, of course, knew that this was not true. We had checked all of this out many years before and knew that the tree posed no danger. But first time home buyers have heightened anxiety and trigger fingers. And so, a mere two days after taking possession of our old home, the new owner employed a half dozen men with one, large, loud truck, to chop the tree into pieces and take it away.
Our little girl was just four houses down throughout the job. From our neighbor’s window, she saw the truck arrive. She woke from her nap, crying and terrified, to the sounds of saws and drills. Our nanny, that hoping seeing and understanding the noise would comfort her (and curious, herself, what all of the commotion was about) took our little girl outside.
They returned with dried tears… and a piece of the tree.
Sympathetic to her emotion, the men took a break from their work to give her a sliver of bark. Then they returned with a larger piece of the trunk. They showed her the rings. She still hated the noise but she loved having a piece of tree.
When I picked her up yesterday afternoon, we brought the tree home with us. It’s sitting in our living room now and we’re plotting out where the tree should live in our new home. Maybe we’ll make a stool or small table from it. Maybe we’ll draw on it and decorate it one last time. Maybe we’ll just find a nice place for it to sit and remind us that, once upon a time, we had a tree.