September 21, 2016

And Even the Trees Are Aging.

The age of the trees roughly mirrors my own.  I barely remember when my parents' house was new.  It was then the home of my Aunt Mary and her son, my cousin, Tom.  It became my home when I was in sixth grade, I suppose, partly because my parents probably got a "deal" and, I can only imagine that there was a reluctance to let it - holding all those memories - leave the family.  It was THE house.  All the aunts and cousins congregated there.

My mother immigrated from Northern Ireland to Southern California.  Could she have chosen a place that differed more from her first home?  Perhaps not, but it is where two of her siblings had gone, and she followed.  Gradually, all her siblings joined in the migration, concluding with their mother and two youngest girls.  They were six girls and a brother, Patrick (of course).  They all married in the New World and had children, "The Cousins".  Aunt Mary's marriage to a wild Irishman did not last, and her large house became the center of the world for the sisters and their kids.  One of the attractions was that Granny (their mother) lived there.  Others were the large backyard and the absence of the husband, probably.  The sisters sat comfortably around the kitchen table drinking tea and playing scrabble - cut-throat scrabble - unconcerned that "the man of the house" might come home and they would have to slink out.  It's an Irish thing.

My memories of this house involve Big Wheels, sneaking frosted animal crackers from the kitchen drawer, being chased with The Wooden Spoon, catching tiny butterflies, eating Cap'n Crunch and Quisp cereals, selling plums from the tree in the backyard.  This is not the tree that is aging, though.  The plum tree died young.

The house later became my family home and took on new memories, built around my sister and brother and growing up with our parents, high school and college, leaving and returning and leaving again.  Returning as a guest with our own children.  And always aging.  A little older each time.  My kids, me, my siblings and, especially my parents.  It's an aching pain to see your parents grow old.  The house also shows signs of aging.  Warehouse-like, it holds not just the memories of years past, but also the things of years past!  My mother is not one of those who throws out everything.  She is a sentimental saver.  It may be appropriate that my dad was a geologist, as the strata of incarnate memories have been preserved over the ages in sentimental sediment in that property!

It was this past summer - not officially over as I write - that I took notice of the aging of the house, the neighborhood, the whole area - and in particular, the trees.  The trees along the street were part of the original landscaping throughout the housing tract.  It is those trees that have been in the background of my life, but that I have never really noticed changing prior to this summer.  I made three trips "back home" to see my dad as he was hospitalized with what turned out to be his final illness.  He was looking old.  I must have been looking old, too.  He took my hand leaned in toward me and (I was expecting something poignant) asked me, "Would you dye your hair?"  !!!  He wanted me to look like me - as he remembered.  I was going for the naturally graying-and-growing-in-wisdom look.  Of course I colored my hair for him!

The trees in front of the house, in the neighborhood and all around town all showed the years with thicker trunks, rougher, more knobby bark, shaggier leaves.  They have stood  there, witnesses, aging with us, and everything else around them.
I know how you feel, trees.  Life does that to us.

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