Ponds and trees and sweet memories

Published 6:19 pm Friday, March 24, 2017


I noticed yesterday that the retaining pond at Granger Park is being drained as part of the improvements being made there. I remember when a kid could play all day at the park, either swinging and sliding at the playground or playing in the handball courts, but I certainly don’t remember chasing crawdaddies in the creek and then crawling through the drainpipe under the street and splashing in the retaining pond by the track after Mama made me promise not to get wet. I wonder if the drainer guys will find a white leather thong sandal that “cost more than the last pair of shoes I bought myself, young lady, and I hope you enjoy walking around with one shoe for the rest of the summer because I certainly won’t be buying any more shoes until it’s time for school to start back and why are you dripping all over my kitchen when I TOLD you not to get wet?”

Our house sat on a corner near the playground at Granger. It was a tiny little post-war cottage, perfect for a young couple and their two hooligan children. Mama would send us out the door after breakfast with instructions to be back for lunch and that we were not to be out of shouting distance, in case she needed us. That gave us a pretty big territory to run amok over, since Mama could really holler if the mood took her.

We spent a lot of time at the playground, or out and about in the greater Granger area, but there were a couple of things to do in our yard, too. Daddy made us a see-saw out of a piece of lumber and a saw horse, and we spent a lot of time doing experiments to see if one of us could catapult the other into the air. The crawlspace under the house was fun to explore. We used to pretend we were spelunking. But the most fun things in the yard were the trees! There was a very large sweetgum tree in the backyard, and an equally spectacular magnolia tree in the front yard. The magnolia took up most of the space between the front walk and the street on one side, and its limbs came almost to the ground, making it perfect for climbing. The sweetgum had low limbs too, but we had to jump up and grab the lowest, and swing ourselves up like a trapeze person to get started, so I mostly stuck to the magnolia.

One bright summer day when I was around eight and Brother was six, I convinced him that we had to climb the trees all the way to the top and talk to one another over the roof of the house. It would be our secret meeting place, and we could yell all our plans about what we were fixing to get up to, and no one would hear us, because we would be waaaay up in the stratosphere.

Now, a magnolia has big old thick limbs, all the way up. But a sweetgum’s limbs are lithe and limber and really nothing more than twigs by the time they reach stratosphere-worthy height. I scrambled up the magnolia, higher than I’d ever gone before, all the way to the top, and stood braced between two limbs, arms akimbo like a pirate. Brother went up the sweetgum like a squirrel, and when he got to the top he had to hang on, because his weight was causing the top of the tree to sway.

We yodeled and made plans to take over the world and told secrets and had another argument about who the little blue Ferrari Hot Wheels belonged to. Mama was inside the house when she realized that her children’s voices were coming from the sky. Curious, she walked out the back door, looked up, up, up, and saw her little son in the top of the tree, crowing like a rooster and swaying back and forth in the breeze. It looked to her like he was about a thousand feet up, but really it was probably more like fifty.

Her mouth fell open. She almost dropped her coffee cup. All she could think about were his tiny little kid bones and how she was going to get through six weeks of a hyper kid in a body cast.  She didn’t want to startle him, so when she could breathe again, she calmly and sweetly charmed him down, telling him where to place each tiny foot until he plopped down on the ground, unscathed. Then she walked around to the front yard, looked up, up, up, and called, “Get down out of that tree young lady!” and went back into the house.

I am so excited about all the new things going on at Granger Park, but the neighborhood will never be the same to me. Those amazing trees that we spent so many happy hours climbing and lounging beneath are both gone now. Every time we pass my old house, Hubby has to hear me sigh and say, “You know, there used to be these two wonderful trees in that yard, one it the front, and one in the back, and when we were little…”