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Ordinary Life—Of Trees and Grown-Ups
9/30/2008 - Jan  Bridgeford-Smith

This morning, on circle three around the gravel path of my usual walking route, a large, old tree caught my eye. It had been standing in this particular spot for probably a century, but I hadn’t notice it in all my prior jaunts.  Today, I stopped and stared at that tree. I recognized it--The Giving Tree! I’m not kidding—the tree was a dead ringer for that star of the children’s book world. 

 

My leafy celebrity was large and tall, with a thick, thick trunk and two low, massive branches jutting out at right angles like giant arms, a mere eight or nine feet above the ground. I developed an intense desire to climb into that tree. For some seconds, reality merged into a charming daydream. That tree spoke to me—invited me up. I saw myself in that tree, legs swinging, eating an apple, waiting for other hapless pedestrians to stroll by so I could call out to them—imagine their surprise! I fancied to their eyes I would look like a plump, middle-aged wood troll though in my fantasy I was a girl once more, complete with jeans and red keds and dark brown hair in a lopsided ponytail. I looked so free.

 

Then as quickly as it came, the daydream dissipated. My thoughts leapfrogged to my daughter, a college sophomore 1200 miles away. She called the night before sounding teary and small voiced. Immediately, I knew I was hearing the sound of far-off illness. Between small sighs and gasps she relayed all her symptoms in way that said, “Please come here,” though she knew it was an impossible request for a common cold.

 

Before hanging up, I said it was rotten to be ill far from home--one of the toughest parts of being an adult.  She sobbed and sputtered back, “I don’t like being grown-up!” I assured her there were times I didn’t like being one either but there you have it—the only thing we can do is put one foot in front of the other, take care of our business, and wait for the adult to return. With great certainty, I stated this too would pass. Though I knew she wasn’t convinced my words were true, she sounded calmer as she said good-by.

 

Still staring at the tree, my thoughts turned once more—to all the things my baby daughter doesn’t yet know. She doesn’t yet know the incessant sadness of losing friends and family to death; the anxiety of parenting; the heaviness of perpetual financial obligations; the daily strain of committed relationship. She hasn’t learned that injustice is limitless, challenges endless and the politics of humanity gruesomely repetitive. She doesn’t yet know the countless times she will scream in her head, “I don’t like being grown-up.” And I can’t tell her, “This is ordinary life--joy and sorrow, excitement and boredom, health and illness, pleasure and pain, child self and adult self, all inseparable, sometimes unfathomable”—she is not old enough yet—she would not believe me.

 

I can’t tell her these ponderings--nor can I tell her that in the midst of all the grown-up heaviness, she might find unexpected enchantment and escape into childhood once more while looking at a tree—she surely wouldn’t believe me on that!

 

Reverie done, I was still staring at that tree looking for the girl that had climbed the branches just seconds before. She was gone, of course, melted back into her adult, mother self. I turned my eyes and feet toward home, walking into the ordinary day with a strangely lighter heart.


4 Comments From Other Members
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9/30/2008 Susan Terbay from Dayton OH wrote:
Jan, I hope you are saving all these reflections you are sharing with us - for your daughter. What a beautiful gift for her to receive some day - writings by her mother - something to be shared for further generations - please - don't just let your writings rest with us - let them grow with her.
9/30/2008 Michele Moore from New Port Richey FL wrote:
Ditto Susan's comments. Isn't it funny how we couldn't wait to be grown up when we were little, and once we are grown up, there are times we wish we didn't have to be? The adult, mother me probably visits all too often with the young, unfettered me, sometimes musing about how life would have been different had I made unconventional or at least less predictable choices. (Deep sigh...)
10/1/2008 Jan Bridgeford-Smith from Newark NY wrote:
Susan-Thanks for the encouragement to share the writings-I am holding on to them and actually getting some of them to a wider audience. At some point, I 'll gather them and pass them on--I may not always comment, but I read you regularly--thank you for all the time you devote to this site. Michele-ahhhhhh, the choices we make never suspecting how courageous we really might be! Thanks, Michele, for all the wonderful blogging you share.
10/1/2008 Maria Main from Burlington CT wrote:
I oft times wander back in time to the beautiful and strong apple tree that grew in my backyard under the green thumb of my grandfather. I would climb on the lowest branch that stuck out at a straight angle low enough to climb on. Leaning against the part that thrust upward it felt as if it grew to fit my body. I was perfectly cradled , safe and secure. Once there I could daydream or read a good book. Oh what wonderful memories---Thank you!!!!

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