Childhood, the origin of all imaginative beginnings, while life is still limitless and full of wonder before the confines of adulthood, creates thickets of responsibility. My younger days were a canvas to paint with strokes of a vivid imagination. Free to wander from sunrise to sunset with little direction, guidance, or fear.
Stranger danger consisted of a snake I couldn’t identify or outrun. My most prominent fear was the threat of boiled okra for dinner. The sheer mention of boiled okra still sends chills down my spine, such a cruel and unusual punishment in questionable vegetable form.
Rye grass was ideal for tunneling through to mystical lands, and ponds were just oceans without waves, and on the right day, cows were a superbly receptive audience for a stellar play. My favorite was always the Red Maple tree that towered over the fields just out of Momma’s view from the front porch.
It was the work of my young life, years of stretching, climbing, and grasping with all my might to reach the elusive branches. At the mature age of nine years and three days, my hands were just big enough to tame the very first limb. As if I was standing atop the podium with a gold medal, I stood on that sturdy limb and took delight in my conquest. From that day forward, its branches bent to my will. As my legs and confidence grew, so did my distance from the ground. The reason for many torn dresses, skinned knees, and the occasional broken bone, it was a formidable companion, both comforting and ruthless, teaching me endurance, patience, and how to survive a fall.
With strong winds and summer sun, its scent would linger in my tussled hair and blistered hands; oh how I loved that tree. Part of the magic of childhood is the ability to make friends with an inanimate object, a skill adults fail to preserve. No one could convince me that towering tree of ruby red leaves didn’t love me just the same, not then and not now.
As I grew older, the branches seemed smaller, and the path to its shade became thick with absence. Until a storm rushed through like storms do, selectively separating what stays and what lives only in memory, it was one of the storms that you can feel, knowing landscapes will change. Although my visits to the Red Maple had become few and far between, it didn’t change the enormous loss I felt when its roots rose, and its limbs fell. Such a distinct memory follows me still.
Now I watch my daughter develop a devotion to the marshlands and the twists and turns of the waterway. I believe it is her Red Maple. I let her get skinned knees, venture just out of my view, and overcome the challenges presented. She will learn endurance, patience, and how to survive a fall.
Cherimie Crane Weatherford is the owner/founder of SugarBelle, a long-time real estate broker and a lover of the obscurities of southern culture. To contact her with praise and adoration, email CCWIslandNews@gmail.com. To complain, call your local representative.