Saturday, September 5, 2015

Tree Book Chapter 3 Love on the Run - I Learn that Sycamores are Touchstones for Joy, Laughter, and Love

I was about 7 years old, living with my family in one of the homes where I was happiest—the butter yellow house with the wonderful backyard. This was a time between countries, between travels, when we touched down in the U.S. for a little while, and felt, for a moment, what it was like to have a real home.

My Dad rarely had time to spend with my sister and brother and me, so when he did, we treasured it. One evening Dad decided to toss grownup pursuits aside for a while and he came outside where we were playing in the warm soft breezes of early summer while Mom spent time in the kitchen cooking one of her nourishing dinners. She was a great cook with Southern roots (Virginia, with family there going back to the 17th century, let's not talk about the flag; we were tobacco farmers who supported freed slaves, a dangerous perspective in those times), so dinner was always tasty and rejuvenating, with lots and lots of butter. On everything.

We knew to leave the biggest pork chop for Dad, or the last of anything left in the serving dishes for the grownups. We knew how to set the table with the proper number of forks and knives and spoons in all the right places next to the china, water glasses and wine glasses just so, and how to clean all the dishes afterwards (no dishwasher, and if we chipped or broke anything Mom took it out of our hides).

This evening Dad decided we would play kickball so he got one of our big round plastic balls and brought it into the yard—purple and white marbled patterns decorated our ball. We huddled while he taught us the rules, making each of the bases a sycamore tree.

We kicked and ran to each sycamore—our compasses in this game filled with competition—my brother, sister, and I. I can remember the sound of my bare foot hitting that ball like it was yesterday—bop! It was a time of joy, running with our little tan summer legs pumping under our bodies in the warm sunshine, our bare feet tickled by thousands of slim, short leaves of grass, stomping across the strong roots of the sycamores which wound their way underground and overground beneath their leafy canopies. We hollered as each runner made the rounds, eyes twinkling, arms waving, mouths shaping their way around shouts of encouragement. Each strong colorful tree trunk was a solid touchstone as we ran around as fast as we could.

It was rare to be able to play with Dad. It was rare to see him happy and carefree. The sound of the ball being bopped across the yard was music to my ears, as was the revelry around this activity. 

The sycamores dropped what we called “ballies,” little round seed balls with spikes that could last through several seasons. On bare feet they weren’t all that gentle—kind of ankle twisting and sharp and nut hard, but we ran anyway, round and round, tagging the beautiful trees along the way.

Sometimes love hurts, but we do it anyway.

It was never about winning. It was all about playing. 

These were the good times that now make me able to spot a sycamore half a mile away no matter where I am, and remind me of pure joy and the love and laughter of my family while I was growing up.

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