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Goodbye Sweet Sugar Maple

It’s just a tree . . . I mean there are trillions of them of all shapes and sizes and when it comes to Sugar Maples there are millions of those too. But this tree is . . . was . . . different.

This was our tree.

When I first saw the house on Stanley Avenue in Roanoke it was the very first thing I noticed – standing tall and full in its Spring glory like a sentinel on guard. The full canopy covered the entire front yard and what made it even more prominent was that it was the only tree of significant size in any yard on our side of the street for the whole block. Most every other house had the classic “Roanoke Railroad House” front porch. Unfortunately, ours did not.

But we had the tree.

In summer it cloaked itself in resplendent verdant green leaves and shaded our house while others baked so fully in the sun. I don’t know for sure but I’m guessing it saved me at least a few thousand dollars in cooling costs these past 20 years. The summer leaves also provided a whole other world just 10 feet above our sidewalk and birds and squirrels built untold nests there – only inches from our upper windows in some cases. Our children watched their children grow and ultimately venture on just as they soon will. Things move fast, don’t they.

In fall its spectacular neon-yellow-orange Canadian Flag beauties would come dancing, spinning and spiraling down in unpredictable flight paths that our children would follow with joy as they sought to catch the glowing treasures. Once fully fallen and dried the piles we made were, of course, huge and one of my favorite pictures is of 10-year-old Rob sailing headlong into last year’s giant collection.

Some of her leaves are still pasted in old art projects and books but they really won’t be much consolation now. Because by the time you read this the tree will be gone. It stands out front as I write like some prisoner on death row – doomed to the fate that awaits it in the hands of the men that will come tomorrow morning to take it down, quite literally limb from limb.

Even 20 years ago when we first bought the house I noticed that there were some upper limbs in distress and after consulting a couple of arborists it was clear that the best I could hope for would be to deadwood it every so often and have it professionally fertilized. This would add several years to its life I was told, but then the tough words followed that, “ultimately trees are like people – they get old and then eventually go in to decline . . . the day will come when . . .”

Well that day is here and I am sad beyond words. Because it really isn’t just a tree – but rather a symbol of all the grand and glorious times we once had as a young family beneath it – when the innocence of our children and the ever-present stability of things gave one the confidence and feeling that anything was possible and always would be even as the years began to race by.

But of course change comes slow and steady if not blindingly fast, and children grow up and favorite trees die and have to be taken down and some of the dreams have to go with them. It’s okay in the end I suppose – I mean, “I know who wins,” as Ruth Bell Graham once told me and I also understand the promise that new visions and dreams are built upon a past that is always fading away, no matter how wonderful. But like the death of a loved one who is handed as confidently as is possible back to our Creator in eternity, it doesn’t change the fact that we’re still going to miss them so very, very much.

We plan on planting a new Sugar Maple – the children insist. But I’m going to miss that old tree and all those times beneath her branches with the people I love.

Goodbye sweet sugar maple of my past – may our futures, no matter where they take us, be built solidly upon all that you have so graciously given.

By Stuart Revercomb
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