Tree of Youth

It was inevitable, the old apple tree is no more. I discover this as I visit the area after decades away. It stood at the back of the sprawling red brick school building built in the late 1930’s. Of Greek revival style, the building is fronted by a long driveway. The white pillars still look commanding but less formidable than how my eyes saw them as I trudged up the walkway on my first day of school. I am pleased the building has been landmarked. It is now the town hall with an annex that covers where the apple tree and playground was. The vase-shaped tree was not as large as some other apple trees in the town but it was a sturdy presence that possessed limbs low enough to entice children into its canopy. Each spring it bloomed in pink and white perfusion with a calming scent of honeysuckle. Its beauty seemed to be a smile inviting us to, “Come visit awhile.” At recess we raced each other trying to be the first one to climb into its arms. Off came the coats soon tossed into an untidy pile beneath. More girls than boys. We swung up to branches with the agility of youth. We were not yet teens. There we sat and talked, strange birds perched among the leaves.   We polished the limbs with our clothing. No doubt we were a heavy burden on the tree, yet no branches bent or broke in protest. We seemed to know instinctively when a limit of children was reached. If the tree was full, the girls headed off to play hopscotch or jump rope; the boys whatever ball game was in season.