Daily Prompt: Ode to a Playground

Memorial to An Ash Tree

When our daughter, a college senior, came home for a visit last summer and walked into our back yard, she said that she felt like her childhood had been taken away.  As she stood towering over me and had just finished her junior year of college, I thought to myself, “Honey, that childhood ship has sailed,” but I knew what she meant.

We had lost a beautiful, large ash tree to the emerald ash borer beetle and had the tree taken down last spring.   Tens of thousands of ash trees have been lost to this invasive species, but ours was different.  Ours was special.

The tree was just far enough away from the house and on our northerly lot line.  Much of the tree had grown to the south in search of sunlight, including a fork in the trunk with a large horizontal branch that ran parallel to the back of our house.  The branch was twenty feet away from my kitchen window.  With a magnolia tree just off the patio, these two trees provided shade and beauty.

When our oldest son was a baby, we purchased a Little Tikes baby swing, and my husband tied it to the horizontal branch of the ash tree (using his Eagle Scout knowledge of knots).  It was perfect.  We ended up using this swing year round.

When our daughter was born a year and a half later and was old enough for the swing, she too enjoyed it, and we added a big boy swing to the branch for her big brother.  We also added a Little Tikes playground climber and slide.

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When our second son was born two years later and was old enough for the swing, he too enjoyed it, and we added a big girl swing to the branch for the big sister.  (Losing count?  We’re up to three kids, three swings.)  It stayed like this for awhile.

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A year or two later we added a horse-shaped tire swing that we had received as a gift.  The tire swing required a higher branch, and the ash tree provided one.  We added another son almost six years after the third.

Our children spent most of their summers playing out in this area, and I could watch them from my kitchen window.  Even when they weren’t playing, they could be found out there reading on a swing.001-002

Our youngest son took swinging to heart.  When he’d get upset about things, swinging would calm him right down. When we later had a disk swing hung on the branch, he would spend hours twisting around and pushing off the trunk.  (We noticed a lot of additional odd behaviors and developmental issues, and he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was five.)

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Eventually, we had to make hardware changes and switched to sturdier swings as the kids got bigger.  By the time they got to high school, the older three would even head outside and sit on a swing to take their private phone calls on their cell phones.

Over time, the magnolia tree had gotten bigger and blocked the sunlight from that great fork with the horizontal branch and it started to die.  We kept the swings up, because they still were safe, and our youngest still loved swinging.

Swinging

Eventually though, many areas of the ash started to have leafless branches, and large chunks of bark began falling off.  We knew what the problem was, but called an arborist just to make sure.  The tree was taken down a month later, and we miss it dearly.

Thanks for all the memories, ol’ ash tree.

(NOTE:  I also wrote about the emerald ash borer and losing our tree on Day Eleven.)

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