If I could, I would climb a tree to the highest branch, sway in the breeze, and peer over the world in safety from it.
A mimosa tree grew between our house and the neighbors on Gardenia Street and my brother Barry sat in it. Staring through shady limbs of fern like leaves and fuzzy pink flowers I yelled, “Help me up.”
“I’ll show you how, but you have to do it yourself or you’re too little.” He scurried down. “Jump to this branch then swing your leg over the top and pull yourself into the tree.
No matter how much jumping and grunting my five-year-old body did, I couldn’t grab the limb and he wasn’t going to help.
“You’ll have to practice,” he said. Then he ran off to play elsewhere.
Every day I jumped and jumped then one day I caught the low hanging limb. Wrapping my legs around the branch, I pulled myself into the tree and climbed high enough to peer over the yard below. The thinner limbs at the top rocked me in carefree solitude.
One day, while playing in the neighborhood, I shoved a little girl down. She ran into her house crying. The other kids said, “You better run. Her big brother will beat you up.” Someone shouted, “Here he comes,” and I sped home, looking over my shoulder at an angry boy. The mimosa tree welcomed my leap to its branch as I scrambled up, screaming, “Momma!”
The boy stood below huffing, “If you ever come down the street again, I’ll beat you up.” He shook his fist and walked away. Momma finally opened the door and I jumped down, never to venture down the street again.
Determination to climb that wild, whimsical tree saved my life that day and the sight of them now fills me with nostalgia.