Whether you grew up in the city or out in the country, most everyone has a memory of their favorite tree.
For me, it was the sugar maple in my front yard where a rusty nail that once held a syrup bucket stuck out and a large branch angled up like a field goal post — a place where I made many game-winning kicks growing up. At my grandfather's house in Indiana, it was a Norway maple — a perfect climbing tree — next to the carport where we would climb to the roof and watch the distant train roar through town.
As the years moved on, another tree would replace those of my childhood and new memories would be created, such as the century-old pine in our yard in Moodus where I can still picture my children smiling and giggling as I pushed them on a swing that was attached to one of the large branches.
Then we moved to Middlefield, and memories were created with a red maple in the front yard and a towering oak in the backyard. The maple provided a backdrop for first day of school pictures and had some of the most beautiful autumn leaves. The possibilities were endless — maybe a prom photo or graduation pictures in front of the old maple.
The oak, on a small island in a seasonally wet area in the yard, provided shade for our cookouts and created the spookiest shadows across a mantle of freshly fallen snow. On cool autumn nights, the call of an owl would echo from the top of the tree.
Those memories are the only things I have left as hurricane-turned-tropical-storm Irene plowed into the state, snapping the maple in half and tipping the mighty oak on our house. As I write this, great branches filled with acorns and green leaves gently push against the screens of the house. We were lucky. The tree merely uprooted with the oak's mighty branches preventing a freefall through the middle of the house.
The tree had been leaning a bit toward the house over the years, but it was an oak and I didn't think I had to worry about it. Nearly five minutes before the oak fell, my wife had called to ask if she should be worried about it. "No," I reassured her. "It's an oak. They are strong trees. Ships were made out of oak for that reason."
Five minutes later, my history lesson ended up sounding pretty hollow as my frantic wife called and said the oak now looked like an addition to our house.
The fall of our maple tree was not totally unexpected as I had watched carpenter ants march up and down the trunk for several years. But the tree looked so healthy and provided shade and that fantastic autumn color, I never wanted to see it taken down. Mother Nature took care of that — again perfectly falling and sparing us any damage.
Thankfully, no one was injured and our house was spared serious damage, but we went from being something you only saw happen to other people on television to living through the real thing. Sure, they are just trees. But now they are reduced to piles of sawdust and branches laying in a great pile, I miss them and have only the memories they gave us.