The oak trees in our front yard cast long shadows across the drive this time of year. It reminds me of one of my favorite pictures of the boys when they were little. Firstborn is armed with sidewalk chalk and is creating a masterpiece on the canvas that is our steep drive. And baby James is happily grinning and kicking in his infant seat just enjoying being outside. Today those shadows crossed James' vehicle like a sash as he poked the address in his navagational device. He has so much stuff --- loose stuff, that he hauls with him on these trips to Lawton finding an apartment, and now going to sign up for utilities for the first time in his life. At every Army Post, he has been in Army housing---like a barracks or dorm. This is his first apartment. And he picked it out all by himself. Thankfully, it is on the first floor, so we can help him move without too many trips up stairs. And it is supposidly in a good section of town. And within 10 minutes of Fort Sill.
How far we have come---from that little bouncing baby boy that was just happy to be alive and kicking to the little guy with his green blankie, to the boy of Star Wars toys and Jurassic Park. Those trees have cast shadows on his trucks, toy size and man size. Those trees have watched him wash his truck, and mow that yard, and rake those leaves. But, mostly, these days, those trees have watched him drive away. And they will see a U-haul truck come and park and collect all those treasures, all the furniture that he has either had around him or collected down through the years. And maybe the old couch which used to hold the scar he etched in the arm until Dad sanded it out and restained and sealed. One day he was bored, and using fingernail clippers gouged a nice crease in the wooden arms.
Today I also have been given the privilege, the honor, and happy duty of waiting for a special package. But, that is a secret. But, those trees will see the delivery truck come, and go. And those trees will be my witness as I sign for that most precious package. This is the house we brought Baby James home, and from here he is launched, and from here we wait for the next stage, and the next visit.
I hope these trees will be silent witness to this next stage. We love their shade in summer, but not so much the sticky time of aphids. We love the color of their leaves, but no so much the dusty raking chore. Those trees throw sticks at the cars parked in the drive--and every once in a while, a resounding clunk signals a score of a bigger branch on the roof or cars.
I have time to stop and stare. I have studied the trees. And the three joined at the base by the side of the drive are astounding to me in their parallels---two are close, as James and Ben are close in age. And two show branching out while one may not branch out for a while. The hollow where they meet holds rock treasures, a few sticks, and recently snow and ice. Little boys like to climb and hide there. Some would say it is one tree---if viewed from above or full of leaves, but each trunk is bigger than most trees that stand alone. And yet these are joined, and their roots fight the brick walkway and burrow under the drive.
We have lived here for almost 30 years. And these huge oaks have grown along with us. Some years ago we lost a huge one by the street and mailbox. When Bob felled that sucker, he cracked the brick walk and it still bears the scars of brick chipped even though the bricks are level with the ground, and he had boards laid down to break the fall. Three other trees near the street were felled last year as their tops died first and fell into the yard. And the oak nearest the house is so full of the parasite mistletoe that we wonder if it is next. And a huge chunk of bark, plate sized, has fallen off the side near the base. That cannot be good. Is it a sign of some deadness within?? If that tree fell onto the house, it would come into the kitchen and boys' bathroom.
I did not used to like this time of year of bare trees. But, star gazing is easier, and satallite passes easier to see. And at dawn and dust, I like the way the bare branches frame the sky. And only in winter, the sun casts the shadow of trunk and branches over the whole street--just like how my sons are casting their shadows in jobs that make us safe.
Go gently, dear James. Those trees have seen you in diapers and now uniforms. Snow boots and combat boots. Cowboy boots and running shoes. Those trees have witnessed us holding your stuff, juggling your phone and wires and cords. Those trees have seen you haul in your favorites from Pei Wei and Schlosky's, your backpacks and your Bible. Those trees have seen you talking on the phone, even praying on the phone with your Lady Love. Your Dad pondered aloud one day, "what is James doing out there in his truck in the drive?" But, the trees knew. Nothing gets by the trees.