I regrettably realize that I was far more interesting as a child. I think that this is probably the case with many people, but certainly for myself. There is a very precious period of time in a young person’s life when they are old enough to begin thinking independently and form their own unique personality. It is a period of development (ideally) unhindered by adult worries, or self-consciousness, and is fueled primarily by curiosity, instinct and joy.
During my “Intellectual Awakening” I was fat and pretty weird. Not weird in the way that is currently cool. It was more like the slightly greasy, oblivious, and overly imaginative kind of weird. I thankfully still lacked self awareness and was unabashedly happy consuming large bowls of pie and ice cream, reading books, putting on backyard variety shows for no one in particular, pretending to be Nancy Drew and publishing my quarterly neighborhood newsletters.
That’s right, neighborhood newsletters. To be fair, the Sequoia Subscription was less of a newsletter and more of a stapled pamphlet highlighting little bits of largely fabricated neighborhood gossip, nonsensical doodles, fake ads and whatever writing piece that I had recently composed for school. The inspiration for the Subscription came when my family purchased our first computer. I saw an opportunity to really make a difference in our little community.
When I wasn’t news papering, I would spend hours in our tiny back yard, which my mother had named the Secret Garden (adorable, I know), with a book and a stack of snacks. Two tall oak trees flanked the garden; their branches almost completely covered the space like a canopy. I loved it.
I remember very distinctly the day my parents broke the news: our hideous old lady neighbor was forcing us to cut down at least one of these beautiful trees. She claimed that their roots were disrupting her driveway, and she would sue if we didn’t comply.
I had never seen such injustice. I always knew there was something fishy about this woman, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what exactly. Now it was crystal clear: Penny was tree killer. A ruthless, cold hearted killer and she was gunning for our precious oak. Such a villain needed to be stopped.
Time was of the essence and I needed to take swift action, so I turned to the Sequoia Subscription to help disseminate news about the forthcoming slaughter with an emergency bulletin.
My piece ran something like this:
“She who will not be named but lives at 430 Sequoia has taken it upon herself to destroy the Stoll family’s precious Oak – an ancient home to squirrels and birds alike. If you are a supporter of trees, please join me in a protest next Saturday morning in the family’s secret garden.”
I was set on rallying the neighborhood and chaining myself to the trunk, declaring that they would need to, “get through me to get to that tree.” You know, just like they do on TV and stuff.
Yet on that fateful Saturday, no protestors showed up; my brothers slept in and I don’t even think that my father was there. It was just me and our family’s golden retriever Sam.
I had made Sam a sign to wear around her neck, and myself a shirt reading, “Save the Tree!” We looked great, but despite my best efforts, the landscapers embarrassedly avoided my eyes and went about their business. I couldn’t watch. I ran inside vowing that I wouldn’t be able to eat for a week.
That night there came a knock at our back door. It was Penny, she was sobbing and smelled of booze. It seems that while my efforts had done little to stop the course of action, they had sent Penny into a drunken tailspin.
My parents awkwardly listened as she apologized, but our sympathy didn’t last long because after she was done begging our forgiveness, she proceeded to ask my mother’s advice on how to approach the Williams’ regarding their intrusive Willow.
It seems that the Willow was clogging her rain gutters with it’s leaves. Yep. No doubt about it. Penny really was a tree killer! She literally couldn’t stand trees. And by proxy, that must mean she couldn’t stand oxygen or shade or rings that tell you how old you are or really anything good! She was evil and I had my proof. I figured it would be best if we just took her out of the equation right there before she got her murderous hands on another family’s foliage. I prepared for battle
But my Mom! My sweet, patient Mom. Who always handles tough situations gracefully and with strength simply laughed and said, “Oh, leave it alone Penny, please! There are better things to worry about in life than encroaching trees.”
And she was right. It was so clear and so true, there are better things to worry about in life, and there are better enemies than lonely old women. Standing there, eavesdropping for the staircase, I had a personal breakthrough. For the first time I realized that what was done was done, and I suddenly felt remorse for how I had made this sad lady feel. It was time to let go and move on.
When I look back at this situation, I am amazed by childhood resilience. When you are young, moving on and letting go is such an easy task. A quick, instinctual decision then the ability to quickly forget, forgo ego and adapt to new situations. I wish that was a skill I had carried with me into adulthood.