Get Back Up Off the Ground

From a young age, I had always loved the look of willow trees. Their long, drooping branches; large, knotted trunks; and enormous expanse called to my widespread imagination. Since no one I knew had a willow tree in their yard, I always longed to nap under their shade-providing leaves or test my creativity with their vines. It was the kind of tree used in fairy tales, which made me believe that they were almost magical, in a way, and that anything could happen in their presence.

As I grew a little older, my fully-grown cousin and her family moved up to the suburbs of Minneapolis, which was only two hours away from us. One sunny day my parents decided to take a road trip to visit her.

Getting lost only once on the everlasting car ride, we pulled into the driveway of a beautiful, brown, ranch-style house, which was different from the clichéd suburban houses that surrounded it. With the glimpse of a mile-high willow tree, all of my dreams had come true. While greeting my cousin and her two younger kids, the willow tree never left the back of my mind.

After what seemed like a ridiculous amount of time to hug and make small talk with people I hardly knew, I rushed over to stand underneath my willow tree’s wondrous branches. However, with no further adieux, my mom called for me to come inside with the rest of them.

“Some hot and humid weather we’re havin’,” I remembered my mom stating the obvious. For the next hour or so, my sister and I sad quietly at the table letting our minds wander to things far from the weather.

When I couldn’t stand the drone of conversation any longer I asked if Kristin and I could go outside, for the willow tree still hadn’t left my thoughts.

As the older sister, Kristin had always been one to care more about herself than the well being of others. “You go first, Michelle,” she often commanded me, whether it was trying out the monkey bars, crossing the rickety playground bridge, or going down a water slide. The willow tree was just another one of these test runs. She knew that if her little sister tried it out first and could do it, she wouldn’t be the one to get hurt if it wasn’t safe or if it was too difficult.

The tree was like all challenges in life. It was the many things that are much easier to watch someone else endure than to go through yourself like, but when you overcome your fears, you realize how much more thrilling and exciting your life can be and how much you learn by personally taking the risk.

So when we got outside I, of course, was the first one to try out the tangled vines of the magnificent willow tree. I courageously ran over and grabbed a sturdy looking vine, first pulling on it to make sure it was strong enough, and then lifting my whole body off the ground. Like many things in life, it felt secure enough to me.

Already an expert rope swinger from the rope in my Grandparent’s barn, I knew what to do. Stepping back three steps, I felt the adrenaline rush through me. A small swing would do for the trial run, just to make sure everything was safe and sound.

“One… two…” I counted under my breath. “Three!” I felt my whole body escape gravity as I jumped up and the willow tree vine flew my high above the summer green grass. Forward… backward… and my feet came back to reality. It was safe!

The thrilling sensation called me to try it again, this time a bigger swing.

“Ahh AAaaah AAaaaah!” I called mimicking George of the Jungle; the man who was my idol at the time.

Thinking it looked like fun, it was now Kristin’s turn to try out her vine swinging skills. Although her little sister could do it with ease, Kristin did not swing with confidence.

Since I enjoyed it more than she did, I decided to try again. This time I was feeling even bolder since I already knew it was safe, and I grabbed a longer vine from the tree. This would allow me to take a bigger swing. I swung a short distance the first time on this new vine, but the next time I took a big leap and was soaring through the jungle of willow tree vines.

“THUMP!” I heard, and everything went black.

Fighting for my breath, I slowly peeked out of my eyes and realized that I was lying flat on my back with the snakelike vine still grasped in my hand. “Ahhhhhhhhhh,” my back was hurting and I was still struggling for air. I tried to stand up and my body felt like it was weighed down with thousand-pound bricks.

“Get up and go inside,” Kristin said with an annoying eye roll, but as I could not stand up, she helped my to my feet and I slowly hobbled inside to my oblivious parents. While Kristin told the adults of my tragic episode, I was brought a cold glass of water and an ice pack, as if that would cure my shock and loss of oxygen.

Once the adults had heard all of my symptoms, they were quick to diagnose what had happened to me. I found out that as I had fallen to the grassy earth, the impact had “knocked the wind out of me.” Like most difficulties and hardships, sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fall, but you just have to get right back up and learn from the mistakes that were made and be proud of yourself for giving it a chance.

Being fearless doesn’t always have great consequences, but that just may be what being a kid is all about. I now know that willow trees can’t make all my dreams come true, but in the end, the exhilaration of flying through the air was worth it. Next time I’ll just be prepared to land on my feet.





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