The willow tree

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It was sometime in the spring of 1950. The boys’ father, Don, Sr. and I had purchased our first home in Roslyn, Pa. World War II was over, and after living in a terrible apartment in Philadelphia for far too long, we’d been able to buy that little bungalow.

We now had two bedrooms, a bathroom with a built in hamper — why that hamper, I have no idea — a small efficient kitchen, a nice living room with a brick fireplace and a huge picture window, an unfinished second floor, beautiful hardwood floors throughout, and beautiful landscaping on a very nice sized lot. We were a happily married couple with two little sons.

The front yard slipped up to a small landing at the front door. As soon as we could, we planted a young dogwood tree there that we got when someone began building behind our property while they were pulling up and destroying dozens of trees. It was illegal then in Pennsylvania to dig up the states tree, the dogwood. We were just 2lucky for this opportunity.

In our new backyard, the landscaping was kind of uneven since the house to our left was set further back. We had this unusual sized and different back yard. My husband, got busy right away and put up a stonewall, filled it in and reseeded it to make the top section flat. It really was beautiful, but it needed a tree. I knew that down the road there was an empty section of land filled with trees of all kinds.

After putting my two little sons Don, Jr. and Doug into the car, I went down there with shovel in hand and dug up a weeping willow tree. I tried to get enough soil, but instead ended up with a tree with little, if any soil. I simply stuck it into the trunk of our 1940 Ford and headed home. Yes it grew, but don’t ask me how, I just got lucky.

Everybody knows I don’t like the summer months, and when this heat hits, and stays and stays and stays, I get testy. But since I cannot manage to have at least a single day barbecuing and eating out in our beautiful yard one single afternoon, I’ve made lemonade out of lemons. I go out and have my coffee and maybe a roll or some breakfast at the tender time of 5 a.m. I’m an early riser, and this morning I did just that.

Riley and Molly, our puppies, followed me out as I surveyed our yard. My son Doug has done a terrific job landscaping our acre. The backyard is just beautiful, especially after the trees and bushes have had a few years to mature. I was looking at our crazy rose bush and laughed. This bush has a regular section of nice pink roses, but off on one side grows this long, skinny stem that each spring, and sometimes into summer, grows fantastic, huge peach colored roses unlike anything else on that bush. Go figure.

We have five fruit trees. Two were supposed to be fruitless plums and each spring Doug and I have to keep pulling off the “fruitless plums” so that the dogs don’t try to eat them. The peach, apricot and apple trees are beautiful but still fruitless. Now about the apple tree.

Our apple tree looks like the saddest thing you’d ever seen. Each spring I think it will just lie down and die, and each year it struggles to sprout up from the earth and reach for the sun. And this little purest example of what an apple tree should not be is, believe it or not, actually growing a single solitary apple. Bless it’s little stringy, heart.

I never liked and would prefer to forget the east coast summers. One I especially remember was when I got to visit the State Courthouse entrance in Montgomery, Ala. Outside was a path you must take to enter the building. It was surrounded with beautiful gardenia bushes. The perfume scent was unbelievable.

In the 1980s I returned to Pennsylvania to visit my mother. I took a ride out to Roslyn to check on our first home and to see what happened to our willow tree. In the backyard that tree, now 30-some years old, must have been cut back a dozen times, but had flourished. The base was huge, the branches reaching toward heaven, and it held a child’s swing.

This old lady’s heart sang.

Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer.


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