I was six, maybe seven. I stood at the living room window, fuming. I watched my dad in the front yard wielding a chainsaw, slicing the lower limbs off the big silver maple tree, one by one. My initial feelings of betrayal and helplessness morphed into fury. I was growing angrier with each falling branch.
I hadn’t thought that he would actually do it. I had rationally explained that I frequently used those branches to scamper up the tree, and that if he cut them down, it would block my access to the higher limbs. Effectively, his actions would forever bar me from climbing the big maple. I had shared my feelings, and with complete disregard, he had whacked the branches right off.
As my dad reflects back on this tragically silly moment, he claims that he thought I would never speak to him again. Yes, I loved climbing trees that much. But I forgave him. After all, I still had the crabapple tree in the backyard, and the mulberry tree in my best friend’s yard. The mulberry tree was my true favorite anyway, since it offered the additional pleasure of its inky sweet fruit.
It is amazing to me that I once cared so deeply, so passionately about something, and yet, in my adulthood, I never pause to give it a thought. How does it happen? And when? I am not one to quote Bible verses, but as I reflect, the well-known lines from 1 Corinthians begin to run through my mind: When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and see things as a child does, and think like a child; but now that I have become an adult, I have finished with all childish ways.
I can’t even remember the last time I climbed a tree. It must be at least 15 years, maybe twenty. Could I even physically hoist myself up any longer? Would I be afraid of falling? And the bigger question: Why do we stop doing the things we love? So many pleasures are lost to age and time.
But enough. There’s no point in waxing poetic on the splendor of yesteryear and innocence lost. I may not be able to return to the carefree days of my youth, but I can still climb a friggin’ tree.
I decided to to it. It was time to get back up there, and a spontaneous Mother’s Day picnic at Coolidge Reservation provided the perfect opportunity.
My husband, toddler son, and I arrived at the small parking lot around noon, and we were lucky enough to snag one of the last spots. We began the short one mile hike through the woods and continued along Clarke pond, spotting a heron and a pair of ducks. After the small bridge, the trail bifurcates. Follow it to the left, and you will arrive at the Magnolia beach. We took the right hand path that leads up to the spectacular Ocean Lawn.
The Coolidge family purchased this entire peninsula for $12,000 in the 1870’s, we learned from a Trustees of Reservations guide, and in 1904, they constructed a Georgian-style mansion called the “Marble Palace.” It was eventually torn down in the 1950’s, and all that is left is the outline of the foundation on this flat, wide, grassy expanse that stretches on for several football fields before dramatically dropping off into the ocean. We set up out our picnic of baguettes from AJ King, Grafton aged cheddar, hard boiled eggs, and prosciutto, and we took bite after bite in a trance-like state, hypnotized by the nearly 180 degree view of the Atlantic.
After lunch, a soccer game, some boulder climbing, and a few cartwheels, I turned to the trees.
A quick glance around the Lawn yielded an excellent option. It was tall, slender, leafless, and its branches began low and curved about the smooth trunk like a spiral staircase. In a few short movements, legs pushing, arms reaching, I found myself fifteen feet up in the air. I took a deep breath and looked around. The view was dazzling — vibrant green grass meets blue water.
I looked down. I saw my toddler son at the base of the tree, frantically trying to pull himself up and follow me. He failed and began to wail in frustration. “Noooooooooooooooooooo!” My husband lifted him up and just like that, with a little help from Papa, he was climbing his first tree.