Once upon a time there was a sweet little blondie with blue eyes who loved nothing more than to play with her friends out and about the neighbourhood. For ease of storytelling let’s call her Rhonda, though she would have pronounced it Wanda until she was well into the first grade.
One afternoon Rhonda went to visit her grandpa and grandma in their quaint little house where there were always little pink and white mints in a dish by the front door. Rhonda spent many an afternoon with her Grandpa, a gentle soul who loved quiet things like reading, poetry and gardening. This particular afternoon was the sunny sort, the kind where you simply must be outside. The little girl was perfectly content to explore the entire backyard garden with her Grandpa, the sun glistening off of her bleach blonde hair. She particularly liked all of the bird houses and baths that he had around the yard. He was very certain to explain the different types and why the various birds were drawn to them. Together, the two, young and old, would sit quietly and wait for a bird to come and then excitedly he would point it out and demonstrate the calls of that particular specie.
Chicka-dee-dee-dee-dee was the only one she remembered but that didn’t matter.
When it was time to leave that day her Grandpa gave her something very special. A single chestnut from off of his tree. The little girl marveled at how many there were dropping from the tree and was fascinated by the green, spikey armour that housed the nut until they were ready to drop. The nut itself was a rich, shiny auburn and even though she plunked it into her pocket her tiny fingers couldn’t stop touching its smooth surface.
When Rhonda got home she made an announcement. Actually, proclamation might be the better word. Yes, Rhonda proclaimed that she was going to plant this chestnut in her sandbox and she was going to grow a tree!
“It won’t grow, honey.” Her mother said gently. “Trees don’t grow in sand.”
But the fiesty, blue-eyed girl was not about to have her dream dashed by a mere grown-up. Besides, grown ups didn’t know everything. Did they?
So she set out to the backyard, chestnut still in the pocket of the pink pants her mom had made, and headed straight for the sandbox which was nestled beneath the fort that her daddy had built. A little house set atop four pillars raising it so high off the ground it required a fire pole to get down! She dug a hole with her plastic beach shovel, pulled the chestnut out of her pocket and with great determination plunked it into the hole and covered it up.
It wasn’t until many weeks later, the chestnut long forgotten in the midst of games of tag, bounces on the trampoline and impromptu neighbourhood parades, that Rhonda headed back out to her sandbox. Much to her delight their was a little bit of green poking its way out of the sand! Grown ups weren’t always right! She was growing a tree!
She squealed and called to everyone that would listen that she was growing a tree! She grabbed her mama by the hand and dragged her out to the place where that first bit of beautiful tree was unearthing itself. With an incredulous shake of her head her mother stated that the little girl was right. She was growing a tree and now that she was, she had better get it in to a place where a tree could actually grow!
Ever so carefully, using the same plastic shovel, she dug up that little nut to discover that it had broken open and pushed forth the beginnings of life. She found the perfect place in the back garden to plant that tiny tree and watched it grow for the next 4 years.
When it came time for her family to move to a new home Rhonda was adament that the tree was coming along! So, obligingly her dad uprooted the now very obvious tree and brought it to their new home.
Since then, now some 26 years later, that tree has grown in the corner of the yard. It has grown while Rhonda went off to high school and then college. It has grown and been forgotten during those years after Rhonda got married and moved away into the big city. It has grown while Rhonda had her children and began raising their family. It was threatened many a time, once Rhonda and her beloved bought their first home, that her children were going to be given a chestnut to plant in their yard. She didn’t let that happen! Her children had a sandbox and she new what could happen if only they had a dream!
Now, at 33, 30 years after receiving and planting that chestnut Rhonda has the distinct privilege of living back in the house where she grew up. That tree is now in her backyard and it is glorious!
This past spring when her daddy was extremely ill he helped his eldest grandson, Rhonda’s son, nail pieces of wood into the trunk as steps so that he could reach the lowest branches and climb.
Those crooked steps in the tree will always remind me of my dad and of how much he loved Owen. Even when he was feeling horrible he still got the strength to help a 10 year old hammer some nails. My boys climb that tree every single sunny day. They even hung a swing from its now strong branches! It is their place. No moms allowed.
What a joy and a privilege. God knew 30 years ago when my grandpa dropped that nut into my hand how important that tree would become.
Who would have thought that it could all start with a little girl, a single chestnut and a dream!