This old chestnut tree has been around awhile, about 50 odd years. Dad says that he and Papa planted it along with a few others when they were just saplings. Papa had come home from work one day with a bunch of trees from a coworker. He and Dad decided to plant them on the acreage where Dad was preparing to build our house. Together they planted a half dozen or so of these saplings but this is the only one that survived. As the story goes, the dozer operator arrived to dig out the foundation for the new house. No one thought to tell him to watch for the little saplings out back. He backed up a bit too far and ran them all over, somehow sparing just this one.
This tree grew as our family grew, first one child, then another until there were five of us playing beneath it’s branches. Games of hide and go seek, tag, mother may I, and king of the mountain. We kids grew up, leaving home one by one, and going off to raise our own families in the world. Returning home for visits, we would sit on the back porch to reminisce about days gone by and how Dad had threatened to cut down this tree because of the burrs it dropped every year. This Chestnut tree gave him the gift of burrs that he had to relentlessly clean up every fall. But we kids would protest mightily and he never did cut it down.
Sister, the youngest of us, always took a picture of this tree on her visits home. This picture is the last one she took. It was to be her last visit home during the summer of 2019, but we didn’t know that. We knew she was struggling, but we didn’t know how bad it was for her.
We have a fond memory of a photo she took during a visit home many years past. I am hoping to find a copy of it, but I can see it clear as day in my minds eye. She came home one bright summer day, her three small beautiful children in tow. After dinner, she grabbed her camera and took the kids out back to the tree. She placed them one by one within its branches. There they were, three small faces peering out through the branches at their Mother, laughing at her, and she laughing at them. Holding steady on the camera she clicks, and just like that, one small moment in time is captured for all eternity. I was there, it felt surreal. It feels just like yesterday and yet so long ago, all at the same time.
I am glad that Dad never did cut down this old chestnut tree, because every time we see it…we think of her.
May is Mental Heath Awareness Month. You are not alone.