The Climbing Tree

Probably the most impassioned thing I ever wrote was an essay called Two-And-A-Half Acres on Edgewood Road. I was eighteen, and for the first time, I’d tried writing about the place I knew best and the people I’d shared it with. I wrote from a hotel room at night, rain blearing the windows and brake lights below, and the essay was just as dreary because a cold realization was creeping over me:

Somehow, under my very own nose, I had grown up.

It wasn’t until I wrote about the things I played as a kid that I realized I wasn’t that kid anymore. Patches of dirt and climbing trees would never be the same, I thought, and I cried— because nostalgia can be a thundercloud.

T.S. Eliot wrote in The Four Quartets that “All time is eternally present,” and I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I think it has something to do with the past being folded up against the present; it isn’t steamrolled by time like a stretch of highway shrinking away behind us.

There’s something to that, because last Monday was Memorial Day, and our two-and-a-half acres were what they’ve always been. Christophe walked over, and he and the boys messed around under the oak tree— this time pushing the babies in swings till they slept. I pulled my long legs up into a tree, but this time, Huddy followed me and told me he’s going to be a Tree Climber when he grows up.

“I’m going to get lots of practice now while I’m little,” he said, hugging a limb, “That way, when I’m older, I can climb real good.”

He said he wished he could sneak out early every morning and bring all his books up into the branches with him.

“You know, I used to do that,” I told him. “I’d tie a bucket to the end of a jump rope, climb up, then pull it behind me and read my book!”

It was Alice In Wonderland.

“Trees are the best places for reading,” I said, mostly to myself, because I’d forgotten.

The Climbing Tree has lost a few limbs from summer storms, but it’s the same tree. Christophe has grown dreadlocks, but he’s the same Christophe. My brothers run their own businesses, but they still push each other around in the yard when there’s time.

My legs are longer under me and there are more years behind me, but Jesus says I must become a kid again to enter his Kingdom, and that’s what Zaccheaus did, remember? He climbed a tree and saw Jesus better than before.

“And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.

~ Luke 19:3-5

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

~ Matthew 18:3

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