Along with Earth Day this week on Monday April 22, Friday is also National Arbor Day. My state of Florida likes to celebrate Arbor Day on the 3rd Friday of January, but many other states celebrate and the national Arbor Day is always on the last Friday of April. I was racking my brain to come up with an idea to blog about Arbor Day when my extremely intelligent daughter simply said to me “why don’t you tell people about some of your favorite childhood memories of trees?” I paused for a moment, and then memories began flooding into my head. As a child you don’t think about the importance of trees in landscaping your yard or reducing carbon emissions—they are simply there as your playground.
My parents had four huge oak trees in their yard and my favorite was the largest. It had perfectly placed branches for climbing and being the tallest tree in our yard, my sisters and I could get pretty high up. Many times though, I preferred being up in that oak tree all by myself. It was a great place to hide away from the world for a bit. Sometimes I would bring a book to read and other times I would just sit and listen to the call of the birds. Unfortunately, in December of 2002, right after Christmas, central Florida experienced several tornadoes, one of which went right through my parents’ yard and took down three of the four oaks including my favorite tree.
Fortunately, there was another great climbing tree in my parents’ yard. On the other side of the house, my mother had planted a Eucalyptus tree when they first moved in and by the time I was old enough to start climbing trees, it was the perfect size. It was by no means as large as my favorite oak, but it had an unusual S-shaped branch in it that was just perfect for sitting. My favorite thing to do was sit in that Eucalyptus tree and just smell it. I’m not sure what kind of Eucalyptus tree it was, but my father liked to call it the money tree. My mother later told me that was because many people called it a silver dollar tree since the grayish leaves looked like coins. All I know is that when the new leaves would appear on it, they would have the most wonderful smell and today, every time I get a whiff of that odor, I think about that tree.
We also had a Chinaberry tree in the yard. It was too high for climbing but climbing it was not why my sisters and I (and the other neighborhood children) liked it. If you have ever seen a Chinaberry tree, it produces a hard yellow-green berry about the size of a dime. Those berries make the most excellent weapons ever. We would stockpile those berries, divide up into teams, and then proceed to do battle chucking those berries at each other in wild abandon. My mother would yell and scream because later on Chinaberry trees started sprouting up all over our yard. Alas, my mother eventually had the tree cut down.
My final childhood memory about trees involves my grandfather’s peach tree. Papa, as we girls called him, had the “green thumb.” He always had a vegetable and rose garden, grew citrus trees (which he grafted himself) and had several fruit trees including a large peach tree. He was very protective of that peach tree and its fruit especially from the bird population. His solution was to go down to the dime store (nowadays we have the dollar store—guess that’s inflation for you) and buy a large quantity of black rubber snakes. Then, when my sisters and I came to his house, he would have us climb up in that peach tree, as high as we could go, and tie those black rubber snakes to various branches in the tree to keep the birds away from his peaches. And believe it or not, it worked too!
So what are your favorite childhood memories of trees? Just remember these stories and think about your own too then go plant a tree or two for your children to enjoy. By the way, I’ve included a picture of the peach tree my husband and I planted about a month ago in our yard. Our first grandchild was born in October—in about seven years it should be just right for him. We’re stocking up on rubber snakes too.