She saved me. When they were asking her parents to clear the lot she tied a plastic red ribbon around my trunk.
Daddy, we can put up a swing.
She pointed up at my sturdy lower limb. Her father smiled and touched the back of her head.
The crews came and cut down the rest of my friends. I remained in what became their back yard. I was surrounded by bushes and shrubs and roses. Not that I have anything against them, but I miss the pair trees. They were messy but didn’t deserve the chain saw.
After the house was built the family moved in and she played in the back yard. She climbed my trunk and sat in my branches and sang. Her father kept his promise and used a ladder to reach my thick bough safely. After tying the two ends of the hemp rope around me, he climbed down and secured a plank onto the loop. It was too high for the young girl to easily sit in and he had to pick her up and place her in the swing.
You’ll grow into it, he said. Hold on and I’ll swing you.
They spent a glorious afternoon in the backyard. He pushed her and she delighted at the swish of air blowing her little girl dress up and then the swoop back, which threw her forward and caused her long chestnut hair to blow across her face. It was her first swing.
Indeed, she did grow into it, as her father had predicted. Griping the rope, she hoisted her body up, with her developing limbs, and sat on the board and swung herself.
More families moved into the development and the children would gather in the back yard and play under my shade. I enjoyed those times too. They climbed up me, sat on my majestic limbs and sang songs. Sometimes they pretend to be pirates on a ship and my leaves were the sails. I swayed with the wind and they delighted in the movement.
For me, the best time was when she swung alone.
Nothing last forever, even for a tree.
Seasons passed and she became an adolescent. She had grown from a sapling to a flowering timber. She still sat under my cooling foliage and read books, made from some distant cousin of mine. Sometimes she would put down the book and sit in the swing and have a few melancholy swoops. Her limbs had developed, her long legs and pointed toes could barely miss the grass. They were muscular now as were her arms and hands, which gripped the bleached hemp rope tightly. She could catapult her body forward and then arch her back in preparation for another self-propulsion. But her face no longer showed the giddy girlish delight.
One afternoon she sat under me with a boy. They had school books but never opened them. Instead of studying, they leaned against my massive trunk and talked while holding hands. The parasite put his hands on the back of her chestnut hair and pulled her to him. There was no resistance to the kiss, she embraced him and pressed her mouth upon his with innocent passion.
He was the first but not the last.
She continued to mature. Her thighs had begun to thicken and she practiced routines with other cheer leaders in the back yard. Of all the girls, she was the strongest and could leap up and extend her legs and arms perpendicular to the earth and land squarely on her feet. She seemed to fly like a bird, even though she was bigger than the other girls. They were all limber, but she had a sinuous grace and vigor. They always placed her in the center of the line.
One night, after the cheers of he crowd at the stadium had subsided, she brought a young man to the back yard. They crept across the grass and sat beneath me. She asked if he’d brought them and he opened the package. After removing her panties and he stripped off his jeans, they attached something to his stalk, which he put inside her. After he started, she raised her legs and entwined them around his back while he methodically stroked her. When he began to call out she covered his mouth with her hand and shushed him. He remained on top of her and she lowered her legs.
Things continued to change. One hot afternoon, with the sun wilting my leaves, she brooded in the swing. Her father came out and walked directly to her.
Why did mom have to go?
It was before her time.
Couldn’t we have done something?
We’ve tried everything.
I’ll stay here.
Don’t postpone college, he said. She would have wanted you to go, as we planned.
She stood up and wept in his arms. Her father cried too but silently.
He continued to mow the grass but neglected the plants. The hedges grew wild and the rose bed was filled with weeds. Eventually he had a boy mow the back yard and I rarely saw her father again.
She was gone for many seasons, only visiting during fall and winter. On one occasion she sat on the swing and gently pushed with her feet to move back and forth. Her father came outside to announce that some relatives had arrived. She walked across the grass to the back door but her posture had changed and her head and shoulders bent down under some invisible oppression.
This melancholy saddened me, and if could have embraced her with my limbs I would have, but that was not possible.
The grass grew in the spring and no one came to cut it. By summer it was a foot high and she walked into the yard by the back door dressed in a white uniform. She had matured into a woman. Her breasts were plump and her ample hips filled out the fabric. Her trunk was sturdy and she surveyed the abandoned yard with a beer in her hand.
The next day men came and mowed the grass and tended the shrubs. She cared for the roses herself. Clipped them back so they would bush, cut one bud and stuck it under her nose. She walked around the yard smelling it and finally came to the swing where she sat, with the rose in her hand and smelled the fragrance until she bored with the pleasantry.
Humans are annuals. They come and go while I remain. She sits in the swing with a rose stuck behind her ear. And she began to swing.