This past Saturday, a day I long had dreaded arrived. It was the day to finally take down the old wild apple tree on the side lawn.
Now this tree was there long before I met my husband. One of the earliest memories I have of going to his house when we were dating, was sitting on the edge of the sandbox under that tree while Ryan played with his cars and trucks in the sand. Over the years, all four kids played there. The box had to be replaced, so Paul built a new one, then that one was replaced with plastic turtle sandbox with cover. The swings were under that tree. Each fall we picked the apples, and in the winter, the deer came and ate the drops. That tree was part of the family.
Last year, the tree was almost dead, but we kept it. Then a wind storm last month ripped a large branch off it, and even I had to admit it was time.
Saturday morning came, and I walked outside to look at it one more time. In the gray, cloudy, damp weather, it looked tired and old. It was time for it to come down. As I went to do some raking, tears flowed as I heard the crack of the branches as they dropped to the ground.
Later in the day, as we started to clean up the branches, and bring the larger pieces to be split for firewood, our oldest son and I realized that a big piece of the trunk made a nice seat, and we all decided to keep it there, as a place to sit and rest for a while. Our son made a comment that it was our very own Giving Tree, just like the book we read to him as a child. The tree had given us shade, apples, beautiful flowers, and now firewood and a place to sit.
Even as I sat, I couldn’t quite explain why I was so sad about the tree coming down, then it hit me. Early on in our marriage, I had operated a small daycare. Each day, the children played outside under that tree, laughing, talking, creating, sharing. Two of the children from that daycare have passed away since that time, and then our Sam played there too. Three young lives enjoyed the tree, enjoyed the sandbox, enjoyed life — and they are all gone.
Then, I cried. And as I cried, I also remembered the good times. I remembered Jenna, who so loved her friendship with Ryan, so much that when I saw her as an adult, she always asked how he was. Jenna who always was kind to the younger kids, who always offered to help me cook or clean. And Frankie, who I later had the pleasure and honor of teaching in middle school and high school. Frankie who had a such a temper, but was so very loyal and protective. Frankie who would sit with our daughter each day at lunch time when she was struggling in high school, and who so carefully protected Sam when he played basketball (at five years old) with the high school students. I thought about how Sam loved that tree, climbing up in it to pick apples, even when we told him the tree wasn’t safe. I remembered when Sam was so proud and excited when Paul built the boys a playhouse on top of the swings, and named it Camp Sbeckles (after their cat).
I remembered the laughs under that tree, the nights snuggled up watching movies eating apple pie made from those apples. And I mourned for those lost, and mourned that we don’t get to make more memories with those three young people who we love so much.
A couple days have passed, and the lump in my throat isn’t quite as big now as it was on Saturday. Now we will make new memories there, and tell the stories of what was before.