The Tree

by Lauren Chineme, age 12
The Tree

“Then I opened the door and ran outside. When I reached the tree I opened my arms and hugged it with all my might.”

The tree has been behind the house far as long as I could remember. When I asked my parents about it they said it has been there since we have moved in when I was five. We decided to ask about it to a dendrologist (because apparently you can study trees as a career). The dendrologist said that they would come over and check it out to see themselves.

We waited a week for the dendrologists to show up. A week that was very nerveracking for me. What can I say, I was curious. I sat down and asked my dad to look up trees. That didn’t help considering I didn’t even know half the things he was talking about. I was five, give me a break. Anyway, I decided to watch TV to solve my problem because I thought Mickey Mouse knew all the answers. I soon found out that was not the case which lead to me running to my room and crying my eyes out. The tree had ruined my childhood.

After the Mickey Mouse incident I decided to just sit down by my window and watch the tree. Analyze it, try to figure it out. All I could understand at my age was that it looked old. The bark was chipped. That was all I could tell. So I sat there each day until finally it was the night before we would figure out it’s age. I wondered what the tree had seen, the secrets it could be hiding. I got so curious I couldn’t fall asleep. So I decided to sleep next to the tree.

I snuck out after I made sure my parents were asleep. With my footie pajamas and Winnie the Pooh blanket I settled down next to the tree and fell into a deep sleep. The tree loomed over me in a protecting way, sheltering me from the things that went crawling in the night.

The next day I woke up to my parents yelling my name. When I opened my eyes I caught the sight of them running to me with frantic looks on their faces. Once they reached me they hugged me very tightly. I didn’t understand, I was just outside.

“Don’t ever do that again, Angel,” Dad said with tears in his eyes. I nodded and looked back at the tree sadly. I had slept well last night with the tree and had hoped to do it again. I guess not.

Later that day the dendrologist came to examine the tree. When he came back in the house he gave us the news.

“I’m guessing the tree is a little over one hundred,” he said. “It’s meeting its end.”

After that I asked my parents what this meant. What was this end? After they exchanged looks Mom looked down at me and picked me up, holding my body to her side.

“Remember when grandpa stopped visiting a few months ago,” Mom said.

“Yeah, he couldn’t afford it,” I said. Of course it came out as foward it but that was what I meant. Mom seemed to understand though and smiled sadly.

“Angel, grandpa had really ended. He stopped living. God put us down here for a purpose. But unfortunately whether we complete it or not we stop living, because of Lucifer, and go to heaven.”

I started to tear up and my lip was trembling. “But I don’t wanna end. I wanna stay here.”

Mom squeezed me tighter against her side. “I know, baby, I know.”

So for the next few hours we sat down and hugged each other, trying to feel comfort. Dad came down and sat with us, hugging us both tightly. It remained silent.

When night came I slipped out of my parents arms and walked to the back door. I glanced back at them, thinking how I didn’t want them to end. Then I opened the door and ran outside. When I reached the tree I opened my arms and hugged it with all my might.

I don’t want you to end, I thought. Then I pulled myself together and walked back inside to my parents.

…………………………………………

As the years went by I continued my nightly visits to the tree despite my parents’ warning. For some reason when I’m with it I feel better. I started to bring out sketch paper to draw different versions of the tree. When I return to my room I post it on the wall with my many other, similar but different, pictures of the tree.

When I turned eleven I decided I would become a dendrologist. The tree made me interested in plants and when I was old enough I pushed for my mom and dad to plant a garden in the backyard. We planted lilies, petunias, dandelions, roses and more. Mom and dad were out most of the time so I was the sole caretaker of the plants. Everyday after I watered my plants I brought my sketchbook and started to draw anything my eyes sought out. One time in the summer, when the plants first started to bloom, I drew the tree looming over the plants protecting them them from the overbearing sun just like it protected me when I was five. When I posted the picture on my wall I smiled. The tree wasn’t alone anymore.

…………………………………………

When I turned sixteen I decided to bring my best friend, Charlie, to see the tree for the first time. That was considered a big step for me because I’ve never brought anyone there before, the garden was my safe haven. Ever since I started this garden it had evolved into something more beautiful. There was a fountain in the middle of the backyard and a pathway that lead to the middle of the flowers. The pathway ends in front of the tree. The colors of the flowers helped brighten everything up. I couldn’t be more proud.

Of course I was scared out of my mind. What if she didn’t appreciate it as much as I did. What if she accidently killed some of the newborns? Bad scenarios flashed into my head which didn’t ease my nerves. I was going to tell her to turn back until I realized we were already at my house. Charlie was oozing a positive aura. She really wanted to see my garden ever since I told her about it four years ago. I was too protective at the time but I was feeling so happy today I thought, why not.

I sighed to myself. I should just get this over with. Charlie deserved to see it after six years of friendship. With that thought, I opened the gate to the backyard of my house and reluctantly lead my eager friend into my garden. When it came in sight my friend froze. I turned around confused at her actions, until I saw the look of awe on her face. Slowly she started to walk down the trail taking in everything her eyes saw. Then she laughed, breaking the tense silence that had settled.

“This is amazing, Angela!” she yelled. I started to relax. I was worried over nothing. Charlie ran over to the tree and stood in front of it. “How old is it?” she prompted.

“A bit over 100, we aren’t exactly sure,” I replied and watched as Charlie circled the tree. “I guess it’s about 130 this year. Closing in on it’s end.”

“Oh,” Charlie said, looking a little sad. The she brightened again. “Bet I can beat you to the top of this tree.” And with that she was off.

I quickly overtook her considering I knew the tree like the back of my hand. After the race we just sat there and looked on as the sun started to set. I noticed Charlie was asleep on the tree branch and smiled to myself feeling content and happy that I made the decision to bring her here. As I continued to look at her an idea hit me. I quickly headed down from the tree and ran into the house. When I returned I had my sketching supplies in my hands. I set them down and got to work. It took me thirty minutes before I was finished. A picture of Charlie in the tree surrounded by colorful flowers in the sunset.

I smiled to myself. This was going on my wall.

……………………………………………………..

“What?!” I shouted. My voice echoed in my parents room. I was 22 yet I still came to my parents house to tend to the garden. It just mattered too much to me. I was studying Botany in college and it is going well. I’ve made more friends with people who love plants as much as I do. Things were going well until I heard the news.

Mom and Dad were selling the house. Which meant they were selling the garden and all the good memories in here. Pictures don’t matter, they’re not as good as the real thing. The garden with so many colors and smells and feelings will never be the same with other people taking care of it because they won’t care as much as I do. All the plants would die.

“How could you do this?!” I exclaimed.

“I knew how hard this would be for her,” Dad muttered to Mom. “Angel, we need a change of scenery. The house is getting old along with us. It’s time.”

“What about the garden?” I said. My parents exchanged looks. “What if the people moving in won’t take care of it well enough? It’ll die.”

“Then we’ll make sure the buyers are willing to take care of it,” Mom said.

I paced around the room running my hands through my red hair. This is not happening this is not happening this is not happening. After all these years I assumed I would always be with my garden. This crushed my dreams. There has to be a way out of this. Suddenly an idea hit me.

I turned around quickly, startling my parents. “I could buy the house.”

They blinked at me. They had unsure looks on their faces. “Angel, I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”

“Why not?” I countered.

“Because we don’t feel comfortable taking your money while you’re still in college,” Mom replied.

“Please! If you know me at all you know how much this garden means to me.” I could see I was getting to them. “And you know I work hard enough to pay the bills.”

There was a moment of silence. I started to get nervous. Please say yes.

“All right,” Mom said reluctantly. “But you have to be sure.”

“I’m positive,” I said excitedly. I won’t be parted from my tree. Not now.

……………………………………….

I watched as they cut the tree down. Remembering all the times we had together and how I tended to it. I found out it was close to death when I saw it start to bend today. I was heartbroken. I cried so hard that I collapsed near the dying tree. I don’t want you to end, I thought. That night I went into the house and took a blanket and slept next to the tree for the first time in over a decade. The last night the tree would have and it protected me one last time from the creatures in lurking in the dark.

When the tree finally came down I felt something break on the inside. Like when Mom and Dad died. But just like then I walked slowly toward the tree, bent down and kissed it. I’ll remember you, I thought and with that I sat in the middle of the garden. My little safe haven that lost its protector.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

A month later a new tree began to grow.

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