Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Trees (12/05/05)
TITLE: The Old Oak Tree (ii)
By Chris Miller
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As a younger oak, I enjoyed my central position in the Johnson farmyard. I felt a part of the family and noticed all their comings and goings. Farmer Johnson doted, in particular, on his daughter Susan. To brighten her summer days, he threw two strong ropes over my arms and made her a swing. Hours passed as she pumped her legs back and forth, her blonde ponytail bobbing up and down as she reached ever higher and higher. I could almost look into her eyes as she sailed up towards the cornflower blue sky. I never tired of her, never felt a strain from her swinging.
One day, a neighbor lad came courting. Will Benson was a strapping boy and easily pushed her high into the cloudless sky. I loved their laughter and wasn’t surprised when he sheepishly knelt at her feet one afternoon. She squealed in pure delight as she pulled him from his knees into her heartfelt embrace. What joy that summer brought! I got a front row seat for the small wedding, held in the shade of my loving branches.
To my delight, little Bensons climbed up and down my lower limbs. Hammers, nails, and old plywood came out of the barn one day. Before I knew it, Will and his boys were pounding away on my trunk and sturdier branches. That lopsided treehouse held more club meetings than I could count. It felt good to hold the children close to my heart in their playtime retreat.
Not all my memories, however, bring pleasure.
Many years after frolicking in their treehouse, the Benson boys left for war. Their parents wrapped a large yellow ribbon around my widening girth in anticipation of their safe return. Daniel came home a few months later with his arm in a sling and a marked limp. David made his trip also, but in a plain wooden box. I watched the procession move slowly down the road towards the little church cemetery. My heart broke to see Susan and Will huddled with their other children around the newly dug grave.
Over the years, more and more processions wound their way down the same country road towards the little, white church. The group of mourners grew smaller as the gravestones multiplied. In time, the family members were all gone; the farm was sold to outsiders. My heart grew dormant as I drank in the springtime rains and shivered under winter’s cold chill. I waited in faith but wondered if I would ever truly live again.
As a squirrel romps playfully from branch to branch, I am startled into the present moment. I hear a car pulling off the road onto the long, winding driveway. My heart quickens. As car doors open, I catch my breath. Two small boys and a little girl leap from the backseat onto the grassy lawn. Their black lab pounces at one and then the others, as the children throw a red rubber ball back and forth.
I can’t let myself hope; perhaps they won’t like the house; maybe it’s too run down. I hold my breath as they walk around the property. I don’t want them to be discouraged by the faded, aging barn. I see the house through love’s eyes, so I will them not to care about the peeling paint and broken windows. I picture them rocking on a newly restored front porch while the mother serves lemonade and gingersnaps to her growing family. It can be glorious again and I pray they will grasp my vision.
After a few agonizing moments, another lady pulls up and meets the couple at the For Sale sign, set squarely in my line of vision. As she plasters something across the sign, I gasp at its message: Sold.
Tears of joy flow freely now; I can’t believe what a miracle I’ve just witnessed.
My life is not over. I have work to do and a new family to care for. I am not alone!
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