Trees and Roots and Memories
February 26th, 2017
My yard boasts a lot of great trees. There’s a huge pin oak, a couple sugar maples, dogwood, hemlock, holly, and a towering wild cherry that dominates the entire backyard. The trees are part of the story of our neighborhood. According to folks who remember its early days, the contractors who built the first round of houses deliberately planted a pin oak on every property. Sixty plus years later, the abundance of mature trees is one of the many charming things about the area.
A couple weeks back, I had a guy come take a look at a few trees that needed trimming and discovered that he grew up in the neighborhood. In true Kentucky fashion, what would have been a fifteen minute professional visit naturally evolved into forty-five minutes of reminiscing and sharing stories.
He pointed out the house he grew up in and rattled off the names of the families who lived up and down the street. Many were familiar to me, long-time fixtures in Danville. He told me which yards had the best sledding hills and recounted meeting friends at the top of the road to ride toboggans down the street, since plowing in those days took a bit longer.
Back in the 50’s and 60’s the neighborhood was full of families and young children. Bands of kids meandered from yard to yard in the summers, returning home only for meals before heading out again. Then, over time, the neighborhood shifted as those same families aged in place. It became a sleepier enclave of friendly senior citizens with well-kept lawns. But now the cycle is beginning again. As older families move out or pass away, a new generation of young families is filling in the gaps. I picked the neighborhood because it was already home to many of my children’s friends and I coveted that nostalgic sense of community.
The trees have welcomed us to the neighborhood as warmly as the surrounding families. In the fall my kids cheerfully raked leaves for hours, leaping into piles with their friends with the joyful abandon of kids in nature. We hung a wooden plank swing from the giant cherry tree, with ropes nearly twenty feet long, creating a huge, lazy pendulum. I push the kids as hard as I can and they shriek and giggle and soar. The dogwood in the front yard now boasts several birdhouses and set of wind chimes made by my daughter, along with several wrought-iron fairies holding glow-in-the dark glass globes. We have our eye on one of the maples in the front yard – might it host a treehouse come summer?
A couple of the trees on my property are slated for removal. There’s a row of pines on the property line that have grown too top-heavy and have the potential to come crashing onto my house in the next big ice storm so I’m going to take them out. I’ll probably plant something else in their stead, though, and I look forward to watching it grow. Forty years from now, when the new tree is tall and stately, maybe I’ll still be living in the house, reminiscing about the way my kids played in the yard with their friends. I hope so – and the trees will help to tell the stories.