The Old Tree
“I don’t understand why she always goes to that stupid tree every time she gets mad,” said Josh, frustrated as he stood at the front door of Carly’s house.
“I am not sure if that is where she went. And it’s not a stupid tree to her. It involves a memory that is precious to her,” candidly explained Carly’s mom.
“I know, sorry. She told me. I guess I just don’t get it. Plus I went by there before coming here and I didn’t see her there.”
“Did you look up into the tree?”
“Up in the tree?”
“Yes. There is a lower limb on the back side of it that allows you to climb up in its lower branches, before they get too high from the ground. You can see the river from there.”
“I am sorry I made her mad,” said Josh, as he shook his head while looking down at his feet. “I just felt like she was being unreasonable in wanting to have the wedding there. Spring rains are notorious for just popping up, and I don’t want the wedding rained out.”
“It won’t be, even if it does rain that day. Let her show you why. Go see if she is there and talk to her.”
“Okay. Thank you. And again, I am sorry. My attitude is not great either. I guess we are both kind of keyed up right now.”
“It’s to be expected. You are both very passionate about what you believe is right and both of your jobs are intense right now. You just need to find your middle ground. You will get there. The love you have for each other is strong.”
Josh smiled and turned toward his truck. As he opened the truck door he was tapped on the shoulder by Carly’s grandmother, her dad’s mom. Her soft gentle grin was always soothing for Josh. He had never known his grandmother on his mom’s side. His grandmother on his dad side was hard to be around due to her abrasiveness. Both of Carly’s grandparents were gentle but firm and very nurturing.
“Hey, Grandma Ann.”
“Don’t let Carly’s stubborn streak upset you,” she teased. “Her passionate outbursts show a love deep down inside. Here, take this basket of goodies and you guys sit and talk it all out.”
“Thank you. You are so kind,” he said as he placed the basket in the truck.
“She is a lot like me, you know. I remember hiding in that tree myself, when I was young. Has she told you about the history we Thomas’ have with that tree?”
“She just told me that she and her dad would climb the tree when she was young. She also told me they had his funeral under the tree. I would think that to be a sad place, not a place of refuge when upset.”
“That park was a gift to the town from my grandfather’s family, so that park and that tree have been a part of this family for over 250 years. My grandfather planted that tree when it was barely ten feet tall. Now look at it.”
“That I didn’t know.”
“Back in 1923, a tornado came through and tore up the town. Besides the damage to stores and businesses, there were five family that lost their homes. If you go out to the tree, look way up in the upper branches and you will see three large rings around the circumference of the tree about twenty five feet high. Those large rings were rope supports for canvas tents where these five families lived together, in harmony, helping each other while they rebuilt their homes. Our family was one of those families, so Carly has a personal tie to that tree through the family history she has been taught.”
“She never really explained all that. Guess we need to do more talking.”
“You are both young and you still have nearly a year before you get married. It’s a good time to get in full communication mode.”
“Yes ma’am, it is. Thank you for the history lesson. And the picnic.”
“You are a good boy, Josh. You and Carly will do well together,” she said patting him on the arm before she turned to leave.
As Josh drove back to the tree, he thought of all the things Carly’s grandmother had told him. He now had a little better understanding about Carly’s love for the tree. Even though he did not fully understand it, he was now more willing to listen to try to understand what makes her tick. He dearly loved her and was beginning to understand that there was a lot more to her than he realized. And a marriage required twice as much communication and understanding to make it all work. He hoped that these next few months they both would be able to establish the ability to talk and understand each other better.
He parked his truck in the lot next to the swings and walked over to the tree. Sure enough, about fifteen feet up in the tree sat Carly. Her legs straddle a large limb and her back was against the trunk.
“Is there room for me up there,” he asked gently. “I am sorry I upset you Carly. I didn’t mean too.”
“I know,” she confessed softly. “And I should not have stormed off like that either. Yes, there is room. Do you see how to get up here?”
“Umm, yeah. You won’t push me off will you?” he teased.
“Maybe,” she chuckled.
Josh was glad that she no longer seemed mad. The climb was easy and there was a second limb slightly lower than where Carly sat that was close enough to where they could hold hands if desired.
“Grandma Ann gave me a basket off goodies. We can go over to one of the tables and talk if you want.”
“Maybe in a few minutes. I want you to see this view and get a feel for the beauty of this tree. Look, you can see the river from here.”
“That’s because this park in on top of this hill. It really gives you a great view of the area and the river. Oh, look at the tug boats heading down river to the Gulf.”
“This was my dad’s and my favorite spot. He would sit here and I would sit where you are. We had so many heart to heart conversations here.” Then Carly got real still and quiet. Josh was familiar with this quietness when she was in deep thought.
“When dad first got sick, we came here and he tried to get me prepared for his death. I got real mad at him and refused to come back to the tree until Grandma Ann made me understand the value of this tree in our family and how much dad also loved this tree. Even though dad never got well, our relationship got stronger and we resumed our trips to the tree. A year later he died and we had the funeral here. I still feel him here and I want our wedding here…with him.
“If you had just told me all of that ahead of time, other than you dad’s funeral being here, I would have better understood.”
“You see those ring up there?”
“Yeah. Grandma Ann told me about those rings and how five families lived in tents under this tree. That is amazing. You know how important family history is to me. You should have told me.”
“Yeah, my communication skills are weak. Sorry. I will do better, I promise.”
“I may have been the valedictorian after college Carly, but I can’t read minds.”
“I know. Come on. Let’s go see what Grandma Ann packed for us to eat. If I know her right, there will be citronella candles to ward off mosquitos and give us plenty of light once it gets dark. I think we are probably overdue for a long catchup conversation. You have yet to tell me when you plan on opening up your vet clinic. I see the construction is almost done.”
“Soon, real soon,” he said, as he help her down from the last limb to the ground. "And I understand Dr. Green gave you a raise.”
“Yes, it goes into effect the 1st of July.”
“Well, that means you are doing very well as a dental hygienist.”
“People are beginning to ask specifically for me as I have a light but accurate touch. Some people have very tender mouths.”
“That is very true. I for one. And I am overdue for a cleaning.”
“You need to get it done before the wedding. Need those pearly whites shining,” she chuckled as they headed toward the picnic tables.