Mimosa, Mulberry, Redbud. Mulberry, Mulberry, Ash. These trees graced the front and back yard of the house where I grew up. Except for the Redbud, they were all climbable. The Mimosa was the easiest for little legs, except it was dangerous and short lived. My first wasp sting occurred as I poured watery mud on a wasp building a home in a crook of the tree, leaving me with a wallop under my eyebrow. After years of pink feathery parachutes, my father cut the tree back too much and it didn’t prosper anymore.
The fruitless Mulberry in front shaded the yard outside of my bedroom. After dark, it filtered car lights and the light from the streetlight coming through the shuttered window. We hardly ever climbed this tree. The backyard Mulberrys were the best, but for different reasons. The tree closest to the back fence became accessible when my aunt gave us a rope ladder. Once we got up there, we figured out a system for coming up without the ladder. Rope ladders are probably too dangerous these days, but my sister and I had fun swinging on it, even at the same time. I remember a limb that hung out over the top of the swing set. I shimmied down that way a time or two. But it was also enjoyable just to sit up in the tree and pass time thinking. What had once been difficult became easy, as my physical prowess increased, giving me a sense of mastery over the tree.
The Mulberry next to the house had unique history. One day I zipped up the tree. Before long, my mother opened the back door, calling me to come in the house for supper. Of course, I ignored her, looking down on her from the tree. She called again and I ignored again. She went back in the house to turn down the stove. The third time was the charm, but not for me. She came out on the patio and told me to get down from that tree. Testing the limbs, I said, “Not unless you come get me,” knowing she couldn’t climb a tree. Never forget for the rest of your life, that your mother always has the ability to surprise you. She hoisted herself into the tree, somewhat gracefully. I understood immediately and followed her down. But she was so good to surprise me one more time. She pointed to the scratchy Ash tree, which we never climbed for that reason, and told me to get a switch. It didn’t take much of a switching to get her point across. I never again taunted her with “not until you come get me.”
In hindsight, that memory is amazing, just to picture. I kept on climbing the tree until we moved, but my favorite climbing time was after dark. This tree went much higher into the sky, with sturdy limbs. Being a native Texan, I loved the flatness that afforded me a panoramic view stop lights, car lights, far off Downtown, and the colorful signs found in shopping villages. This seat was special. I knew I loved every inch of everything spread before me in my secret world. I could look up to see stars twinkling overhead and look across to see my hometown sparkling. But the best was looking down on the patio, where the glow from the den and kitchen, fell out in checkered squares across the concrete as that tree-climbing Mama fixed supper.