Traces of Home
There were two locust trees that stood in our front yard, a marked duo - aligned, observable likeness… timeworn, over-matured, gnarled and weather-beaten. They dropped the tiniest of leaves that slipped right through the tines of our rakes in the fall. Like trying to gather grains of sand scattered across a glass surface with one’s fingertips, traces were always beyond grasp no matter how many times the yard was combed-over. Peaks and valleys in the adjacent sidewalk were products of the massive root systems, mighty agents of tectonic shifting through the years.
Our house was “older,” yet we were just second owners. We had viewed the property only once before drawing our own mental blueprints – “this would go great here, that would be perfect there” – the “ours” stamp decidedly placed. Following a brief routine of buyer/seller negotiation we convened in legal accord. We signed to close as another year neared its culmination, fallen pinnate leaflets concealed by a sweeping blanket of white.
Warren was designated Trustee, one of four children to Norbert and Marcia. The companions shared most of their life’s story with the home, but had recently passed on, just a little more than nine months apart, both at the matured age of 91; lives deeply rooted, well-established offshoots. Warren was a grayed boy in his 60s with heartstrings still attached to times past. His few words spoken on that occasion were reminiscent of “mom and dad” and “home”…dad’s unmatched holiday light display, mom’s unconventional cleaning methods – shining her wooden floors by pulling the boys across, utilizing their padded hindquarters to “buff.” Warren lives just outside city limits, on the western edge, yet I’m certain I’ve often seen nostalgia steer his small white pickup past his old home (near the north end of town).
We had fallen in love with the house because it was cozy and quaint, obviously cared for and appreciated by previous dwellers, just enough space for our budding family, possessing “such great potential.” From our narrowed perspective as the “next” generation, time had outdated every corner; and we were thus its saviors, needed ambassadors of change, overzealous fixer-uppers. From top to bottom, inside and out, we overhauled until nothing remained untouched aside from the cause of that buckling concrete crust.
The construction dumpster we had rented at the offset was sheltered beneath the winter-barren arboreal canopies. We hauled load after load of colorful carpet scraps, pieces of drywall with patterned prints, wooden boards and panels still clinging to the nails that had held yesterday’s portraits. Out the front door, down the uneven path, between the broad trunks we traveled, disposing of the “waste,” hurling it up and over the high edge of the metal bin. We could see our own breath in the frosty air as we panted from the exertion, feel its biting chill burn our lungs, and occasionally hear the familiar rumble of a pickup down the road, somewhere close to home.
As we commenced a third springtime in our “revived” abode, we ventured to pour a concrete driveway and new sidewalk out front. This, of course, necessitated a “serious” conversation concerning the locusts. The removal of one was imperative for placement of the drive and new walkway. We determined that removal of the second made sense as well, for “obvious” reason—its aged partner would also be going. To us, it was somehow fitting, and in-line with a seemingly natural progression.
Those towering trees that took decades upon decades to flourish skyward came down in just two days. The event was an exciting one for our family who watched through the front window, a plethora of still images documenting the progress, our smiling faces in the foreground. Videos captured excited squeals of our children following the cracking of timber breaking free and the resounding thud of colossal limbs after plummeting in freefall, finally reaching earth.
The jubilee of spectator sport was interrupted as I glanced across the yard and caught sight of an old white pickup parked alongside the opposite curb. Perched in the driver’s seat was a stoic Warren, again finding himself in time’s designated role, the onlooker, powerless against the advancement. He was in no visible hurry to leave. I responded true to form, sealing any sense of apprehension securely within that internal, “unbreakable” glass box, as always, neglecting the mounting compression... a very artful skill I’ve developed in the latter part of my thirty-three years – the great evader. My body reverted to covert autopilot and began busying itself with tasks away from the window.
I later returned when all had quieted, the cracks and thuds long-since subsided. Warren was nowhere to be seen, but the man from the tree service who had now completed the daunting task was approaching the front door. I thanked him for his diligent work and we exchanged small talk before he handed me the bill. He then adverted briefly to a conversation he had shared with Warren that day, the retrospect of times gone by when Warren had planted those locust trees with his dad, tended to them as they burgeoned forth… how his parents, as fortifiers of continued growth and development, had sternly warned him not to climb the branches until the trees had reached a certain height… “He was wondering if he could maybe keep some wood,” the man disclosed. I don’t recall my distracted reply as he turned to take his leave.
The shatter had befallen… pieces innumerable as those little leaves that had covered our yard. And I pictured Warren as a young boy, roosting in the highest branches of the locust that once stood directly in front of our window, the one that had faithfully followed its companion to the bitter end. I was filled with overwhelming unease, remembering Warren driving past our home on various occasions. I wondered about the locusts… were they among the last remaining pieces of his happy “days of yore?” I mulled over what they could have embodied for him… maybe they brought a superficial measure of comfort… traces he tried to gather.
About the Author: Teresa Price resides among the amber waves of rural Kansas. She is a full-time mother and Speech-Language Pathologist by trade. She fell in love with writing somewhere between puberty and adulthood and has since embarked on a series of gratifying adventures with the “mighty” pen. She recently had her first hybrid piece appear in Foliate Oak.