Here's a photo of my brother, sisters, and me on the first day of school in 1960. You can see our oak tree in the background - 48 years ago - seems like a lifetime.
When my family moved into our "new house" in 1957, the big oak tree in the front yard was hard to miss. Not only was it very tall, it curiously leaned toward the street. Over the years, as it grew larger, we feared it would one day topple over, but it weathered many storms and never did fall on its own.
That old tree was a source of comfort to us through the years. It was home to many squirrels that would often drop acorns from its branches. We were sure the squirrels were tossing them at us. The acorns served as "food" for playing house outdoors and were good ammunition for fights with our brother, who was a real stinker. We quickly learned that an acorn thrown at the proper speed could sting a bare leg and leave a mark. When we had kittens around, they always found their way to the tree and effortlessly scampered up the trunk. We were often afraid they wouldn't be able to get down on their own, but they always managed to arrive safely on the ground. I think both my sisters climbed the tree, to our mother's fright and disapproval, but I was content to stay earthbound.
Summer weather often found us setting up shop in the shade under the great oak, where we'd sell KoolAid or lemonade along with Mom's homemade oatmeal raisin cookies. If we had $2.00 worth of change in our cigar box at the end of the day, we thought we were rich.
We had a great view for Fourth of July fireworks from our front yard, so after enjoying a backyard picnic and homemade ice cream, our family would sit together under that tree and watch the sky light up with brilliant colors. There was no need to travel to see fireworks when we had front row seats.
Countless games of Monopoly, Sorry, and Candyland were played under the old oak tree and we spent many summer afternoons using the tree as a leaning post as we read the adventures of Nancy Drew and Tom Sawyer. As we grew, graduated from high school, dated, and eventually married, our old oak tree provided the perfect background for many family photos. but it wasn't until we learned the tree was dying that we really appreciated its worth to our family. We couldn't imagine our mother's house without the great oak standing guard in her front yard.
Last year, during some of the most horrific storms Ohio had seen in a long time, huge branches of the grand old tree split and came crashing down, filling our mother's yard with splintered remnants of our childhood memories. It was then we learned the tree was diseased. It was recommended the great oak be taken down, and so it was.
The day the tree was brought down was not a happy one. My mother and sister stood inside our mother's house and watched tearfully as the tree was methodically cut down and removed from the front yard. It was very much like losing an old and dear friend, but the deed was done and memories of carefree childhood days flooded back as amputated parts of our sheltering tree were dragged away to be cut for firewood.
Some of the wood sat in our mother's backyard for a time and neighbors began to stop and ask if they could take some of it. It was comforting to know the tree would be keeping someone warm through the cold winter months. My sister took some of the better pieces of wood and commissioned two local artists to make bowls from it so each of us would have keepsakes. They turned out beautifully and she gave them to us for Christmas. The bowls are treasures to our family and will always be cherished.
Each living thing has a time to be born and a time to die. It was apparently our great oak's time. It served us well and will remain part of our family's history.