The Tree

March 31, 2012
By Anonymous

Summer was for parks. My friends and I went on the slides and the swings, played with the water at the fountains. We hung upside down from monkey bars, played freeze tag, and laughed when someone was in ‘trouble’. Our conflicts were small, our triumphs magnificent. I was seven. Those were the days.
It was then that we found the tree on the other side of the park, perched on a hill and far from the playground. It was one of the strangest and most beautiful trees I had ever seen. The circumference around the trunk was big. So big that the three of us fit perfectly behind it when hiding from our parents. Though it was summer, there were only a few leaves on the top of the tree. Its enormous branches stemmed out on all sides and tangled with those of nearby trees. It was like an army forming one small forest. Someone had cut off one of the branches, creating a space for us to climb up and sit. We dubbed the tree our picnic spot. It was our tiny forest in Owl’s Head Park.
The three of us stood in front of the tree, marveling at its enormity. But we were there for another purpose, a dangerous mission. My friend wanted to climb across one of the long branches and jump off of the tree from another side. When he first suggested it, I glared at him and shook my head.
“Why?” he asked. “Are you scaaaared?” He climbed up the tree to the picnic area, making chicken noises and flapping his elbows.
I climbed up after him and sat down. “No,” I said. “I’m not scared.” I plopped down on the tree and crossed my arms. It was the worst thing in the world to be called ‘chicken’.
“Then come on!” He turned around and propped himself on the branch. He sat down on his knees and waited. I looked over at my other friend. She wrapped her arms around her knees. Her wide eyes stared back at me. I was scared. But I had to do it, just to prove that I wasn’t scared. I hid my fear behind a useless façade of indifference and optimism.
I took my first step onto the branch, testing its sturdiness. The height below scared me, so I hugged the trunk before sitting down on the branch. I looked down at the grass that was so far away. The world seemed too different to comprehend properly. Slowly, the three of us made our way to the other side, mindful of the bark that felt rough on our hands and stuck to our jeans. As I looked around, I could see the yellow playground on the other side of the park and the tops of trees in the distance. I felt so tall, so accomplished. I was on top of the world.
On the other side of the branch, I looked down again. The height didn’t scare me anymore. It was more of a challenge, beckoning me to the ground. I jumped and fell on the grass, a near perfect landing. Mission accomplished! My light-up sneakers turned different colors as I stood up. I was invincible. My victory was great and unmatched. I spread my arms out and ran down the hill.
A few years ago, I came back to the park and walked to the picnic tree again. A big fence surrounded the area that used to house the tree. Tall grass grew in the enclosed area. A large rock stood in the center. The tree was gone.

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