Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thursday, September 12, 2013 - 2 comments

A Significant Tree

(Back after a long summer's absence.....I wrote this three weeks ago as I watched the skyscrapers and whitecaps and pine trees give way to jagged snowcapped mountains as my beautiful hometown faded from view out my airplane window...)

Yesterday as I ticked the last of my gotta-do-while-in-Canada errands off my list and was heading home to continue packing, I was heading down Minoru, about to turn right onto Granville, when I saw It.  There beside me, on the edge of the little park on the corner where the path leads to the library, a tiny red sign posted on the trunk of a fat tree caught my eye:  “City of Richmond Significant Tree Inventory.”  Hmm.  ‘Must be old,’ I thought.  I looked up at its leaves to see what sort of tree it was and I smiled a great big smile.  

A chestnut tree.  

Chestnut trees, in my books, are always significant.  Chestnuts have long been a little secret signal between my Father and I - a promise of good things He holds in store. I had to stop.  I was already running late and still had to order dinner before getting to work on trying to “skinny-fy” my suitcase, but I didn’t care.  Chestnut trees trump all.

I pulled around the block, parked at the library, and headed for the trees.  At the entrance to the park stands “Grandpa’s statue” - the totem pole he helped carve when he was in the Carving Society.  From there, I followed the path into the little park where, when Mom was the promotion director at the mall and Dad was a photographer for the paper, they used to have picnic lunch dates that eventually led to marriage and me.  I remember there used to be a big log in the park - taller than my preschool self -and that log is where I have my first recollection of holding a ladybug.  

I made my way over to the “significant tree”, enjoying the first Crunching of the Fall Leaves on my last day of Canadian summer.  :)  Early evening sunlight cast long shadows on the golden leaves blanketing the park floor.  I smiled at my Father as I peered up into the tree and saw all the bright green chestnut shells, ready to tumble to the ground in a shower of hope and crack open to reveal their treasures of “joyful anticipation” in just a few short weeks.  And there, tucked away in the grass, I spotted one early chestnut that had already made its journey to the ground, just so I could pick it up on this very day and take it with me as a token of hope of good things to come.  

A few metres from the tree, the sign for Minoru Park Plaza lists things like the Aquatic Centre (where I “learned to swim” in my little chocolate chip bathing suit), the track (where I used to do the hundred metre dash and high jump and dream of running as fast as my friend Kim Rogers), the skating rink (where I took lessons and learned to skate backwards as a kid, and then, as a teenager, would go with friends on the weekend and giggle about which boy we’d like to catch us if we “accidentally” fell), and the library (from where I used to take out huge stacks of books to bury my nose in all week long...except the time when I got grounded for lying to my teacher in Grade 2 and wasn’t allowed to take out books for two weeks, which nearly killed me.)  And, not listed on the sign but just on the far side of the main park, are the Chapel (where rice has been thrown at multiple family weddings), the Pavilion (where my four-year-old self had to go home at bedtime from Auntie Robin and Uncle Gord's wedding reception and was so disappointed to find out the next day that I had just missed hearing Puttin’ on the Ritz, one of my favourite songs), the pond where we released my pet turtle Monty into the wild, and finally, the hospital where I was born. 

There is more “significance” on that patch of land than one venerable chestnut tree.  That entire big block in the centre of town has a central spot in my family’s history as well.  And as I stood there with that spiny pre-chestnut clutched in my hand, I could hear Dad saying, “Hey, I’ve not forgotten you or your part in this story.  There is hope for you and for your future.  There will be picnics in the park and story hour at the library and a little girl in a chocolate chip bathing suit for you yet.” 

(And, as if that weren't enough, He gave me a rainbow in the fountain on my way out, just to be sure I knew He'd keep His promises.)

My heart smiled at this sweet gift on my last night home.  Even as I was preparing to fly away, my roots were going down deeper.

My great-great-several-times-over-grandfather was a founding father of our city.  He’s got a school named after him and is a key figure in the history books.  I am the only grandchild on our branch of the family tree, and, being a girl, the last name will stop with me.  What’s more, I haven’t lived in my hometown for fourteen years now, and have planted my heart in other lands since.  And yet I have a stake in the ground there, just as he did all those years ago.  Just as my parents did with their lunch sacks and my Grandpa with his carving tools.  I am a product of lives lived, promises made and lessons learned on the land surrounding that Significant Tree.  It is a landmark of my past and it holds promises for my future.

And I have a chestnut to prove it.