I can’t imagine my life without an important tree in it, or a time when a tree didn’t feel like the most comforting thing, or the best thing, or the thing that I truly loved being near or in or a part of. At every stage of my life, there has been a tree, with a story.
One of my earliest happy memories was of the giddy euphoria I felt when my squeals of delightful terror, pleading “Higher! Higher! Push me higher” were answered with a firm adult hand pressed into my tiny four year old back, as I flew through the air on a rope & plank swing that hung from the giant bough of the ancient plum tree in our back yard in Merrylands, in suburban Sydney.
It could have been anyone of the four giant adults in my life pushing me, one of my beautiful Italian Grandparents, who loved me more than life itself. I knew that love. I was always certain of it. Secure in the knowledge that I was the centre of their universe.
Or it could have been either of my amazing young parents, thrown together in their teens, challenged by a young family, while they themselves were still so young. I never knew until I was much older that my parents were young and inexperienced and learning on the job, with me providing so many of their “first” lessons. To me they were simply beautiful people who loved me. They would look at me with such tenderness and what I now think, may also have been a measure of trepidation. I never felt any of that insecurity they must have felt, I just felt the love.
I hardly ever closed my eyes when I was in that swing. I used to hold on for dear life, and lean back as far as I could, just a little bit beyond safe, just until it felt a little dangerous, and catch glimpses of the sky through the tree’s purple leaves.
I could survey my whole world from that swing in my purple tree. I could see the vegetable patch with my Grandfather toiling there daily, producing food for our family. I could see the outside wash house, with my Mother or my Grandmother standing at the old (though new then) electric washing machine, with a mean mangle that I got my long hair caught in once, terrified that I would lose my locks forever, shifting the clothes by hand from the machine through the mangle to drain them and then into the sink or basket while the water was drained from the machine, before filling it again to rinse the clothes. My Grandmother was so thankful and proud of her magic, timesaving electric washing machine, the envy of all the other Nonnas.
I could see the backyard Dunny…. down the concrete path, halfway between the house and the back fence, just before the vegie patch…. that was like walking a 100 miles to pee when it was dark or cold or raining, but we never thought twice about it.
I could see anyone approaching from the back door to spoil my fun, I could see the neighbours backyards on both sides of our house and if I stood up on my swing, I could usually see over the fence and spy on what they were up to. I could pretty much survey my whole world from that tree swing.
As I got older and braver, I would climb it to pick it’s sweet, juicy black plums. Eating dozens of them a day. Their juice used to run down my arms, down my chin & typically would also ruin my clothes. But despite the vast quantities of fruit I ate, my appetite for dinner was never ruined. Fast forward 50 years and I still eat too much fruit and never ruin my appetite for dinner – that may explain my ample frame 🙂
That tree was bulldozed when I was 12 and my family sold that beautiful old house to developers who put up a huge shopping centre where our proud old Federation style home had once stood. Never mind. Nothing has ever taken away the very real sensations that I can still feel, if I just lean back a little & close my eyes and bid the gown ups of my past to once again, push me higher!