There is a mimosa tree and an evergreen tree growing in the yard at our new place. They are both young sprouts right now, but I hope they grow big and strong and formidable. I love the mimosa tree, never tried the drink, but I adore the fuzzy, pink flowers that bloom and the rattle of the seeds in their pods that fall from the tree. I love the way they close their leaves at a touch. A mimosa tree makes one of the best climbing trees. Of course this is just my opinion, but I am as close to an expert on climbing trees as you’re likely to find. The limbs of a mimosa branch off the trunk low and you can practically step up into it.
My grandmother had a mimosa tree on a perfect square patch of green lawn in her front yard. I spent much of my childhood in that tree. Each branch was, in my mind, a pretend room in an imaginary house. I flitted around from branch to branch passing the hours.
There was another climbing tree at the back of my grannie’s house. A tall evergreen. Probably 30 feet. This tree was by far the absolute best climbing tree around and also my dear friend. Sap on my hands and bare feet were as common as dirt under a little boy’s fingernails. The branches of this evergreen hung nearly to the ground. It was necessary to duck underneath the heavy green limbs, but once underneath it was like a secret place. A shady, quiet, dark circle of dirt. The limbs of the tree grew straight off the trunk nearly parallel to one another practically forming a ladder. A tree climber’s dream! Once up in the arms of the tree—off to the right about 20 feet up, one branch curved and crossed over another branch forming a little settee, a cradle if you will. The perfect size for a little girl’s body to recline in. It was possible to squeeze another person up there too, out towards the edges, and I shared this branch, my branch as I like to think of it, occasionally with my sister, cousin, or friend. Here nestled up in the branches of the tree I could spy on things down below, but I much preferred to gaze upward. I would recline back and peer upward through a little window of branches imagining the angels sitting on their fluffy white clouds, watch the birds flit in the sky, and dream my dreams
This tree was my oasis from divorcing parents, my retreat from a big sister, my reprieve from boredom.
The mimosa died, and someone cut it down. Then one day I came to visit my grannie to find my beloved evergreen hacked. She had hired someone to trim the trees and they had sawed off my trees ladder-like branches at least 10 feet up. Tears poured down my cheeks as I gazed up and realized I couldn’t reach my sanctuary. I wrapped my arms around the tree hugging it, pressed my cheek against the trunk, and using the sawed off nubs as foot and hand-holds, I shimmied up, much like a bear would. But the bark scratched my skin and hung on my clothes. It was so much effort and getting down was no longer as simple as climbing down a ladder.
I don’t remember ever having an ill-thought towards my grandmother before that day. But at that time I was furious because she had hurt me. Not intentionally of course. She apologized when she realized how much it meant to me. She said she didn’t know they were going to cut it like they did. To her it was a tree, to me it was my harbor, my haven, my hide-away. I told my secrets to those branches, swayed in the breeze in its limbs, imagined I was an angel floating on my own fluffy cloud right up to Jesus. I eventually accepted that I had no more trees to climb.
My mother now lives in my grannie’s house and the tree is still standing. The other day I grabbed my niece Ashlynn and said, “Help me climb this tree.” I discovered I’m too heavy to hoist myself up, and she is too little to boost me. It was so effortless 25 years ago. But I was winded in 2 minutes and never made it off the ground. She decided to shimmy up and perched on the lowest branch, but I looked up at her, paranoid she was going to fall and break her neck and demanded she get down.
It’s probably for the best that I couldn’t climb it. I’d probably be disappointed once I got to my sitting spot. Adult experiences are always so vastly different from our childhood memories.
But writing this makes me want to get a ladder and get up there anyway.
Find my sitting spot and recline
And put the fire department on speed dial just in case I need them to help me down.