The Mountain Ash Tree

As a young girl swings back and forth the view before her never changes. Then with time and seasons nothing stays the same.

Growing up with a big front yard provided a view of trees, the lake, and cars swishing past. The willow trees danced on the other side of the driveway as the breeze swayed their feathery branches. The giant poplar trees stood boldly along the road in front of our house.

The ash tree stood alone. Not really. It was the only tree close to our house. It, also, was the closest tree to my swing. Most of my attention to the view in front of me as I swung was focused on that tree. In summers it produced distinct red berries that colored my swinging sight. Creating songs about the tree occupied my thoughts as I moved closer to it, then back again.

The night of a big storm grabbed my attention. Flashes of lightning glowed outside my window. The thought of my mountain ash tree never entered my mind. Not until the next day.

One of the lower branches had broken. As I walked closer, I could see the broken limb was still partially attached to the main branch. I felt sad to pick up the lagging section of my broken mountain ash.

Then an idea occurred to me. After retrieving some tape and small rope, I wrapped the break in the branch. Using the rope I secured my mountain ash project so that the limb maintained the same angle that it had prior to the storm.

Time went by. I honestly don’t recall how long, but in due time I decided to unwrap the broken branch. I was amazed to see the branch had grown strong again. There was a swelling where the break had been, but could now support itself without my improvised sling.

The tree continued to grow. Then came a day I never thought I would see. As its branches also continued to sprout, it was no longer a simple little mountain ash. I was a big tree. This posed problems for mowing. My dad could no longer get close enough to the tree to mow the lawn underneath it.

I do not even know when it happened. One day I sauntered over to the swing. The tree had been pruned. The lump in branch I had saved could still be seen. But the branch was gone. What had once been a project of mine and had turned into a obstacle for my father. A life lesson, I suppose. Saying, “Goodbye,” happens.

In the years since, I have noticed mountain ash trees from time to time. They always seem to be at the right place at the right time.

The day of my father’s funeral, I looked up from the plot he had chosen. There looking over his tombstone. . . was a smiling mountain ash, of course.

Memories. . . time can savor.

Waiting. . . for nothing to happen

Olyvia married only one year out of high school. By the age of twenty-one she had two little daughters. Before her twenty-second birthday she was a widow.

Fast forward the years of raising two girls as a single parent. Going back to school to become a nurse so she could support her family financially exhausted her life during her twenties. Working, being a mom, and watching friends take turn get married filled her life.

However, her days were anything but full. A pervasive emptiness whispered in her ears. She would lay in bed alone. She watched her married friends share tasks with their partners. She could not have known that her time as a wife would be so limited, until it was over.

Decade by decade she believed someone new would walk into her life. “Single no more,” she would close her eyes and wish with each birthday candle year after year.

Then she watched her girls marry. “It’s OK that I won’t get to have a ‘daddy/daughter’ dance,” she listened to her daughter chat with a friend. Olyvia’s heart broke once again. If only she had remarried, her daughters could have had a new dad.

A reason to marry is far more complex than just filling a vacant job description. She was anxious for someone, but not if it meant sacrificing the lifestyle she shared with her young girls. If they were to have a father, he had to be just like Zach. Maybe that was part of the problem.

What man could ever be compared to her dream partner? She had married her childhood sweetheart. Obviously, she could not go back in time. Someone new in her life, would not have been her friend during all those years.

So, now facing retirement, Olyvia stands alone. Regrets? For sure. Regrets for what never happened. But relief for relationships she and her daughters did not endure. Two sides. One life.

She could not help but say to herself, “I have waited all these years. . . for nothing.”

In Higgins Valley, memories keep happening. What happens next for Olyvia and her daughters? Just wait.

Alone. . .

Flying Beans

Remember times when you were young and time stood still? When you thought to yourself, was that gathering just one more of many times together? What could make one lunch any more memorable than any other?

Picnics with all family members assembled around the campfire paints a portrait of a well established memory. The food, the chatter, the smell of the grill all instilled memories that I will always cherish.

Then there were times, you wished had never happened. Or, they even though they did happen, hopefully had been forgotten.

So it was on a simple summer day when I was eight years old. My dad successfully grilled the burgers with no major incidents. A slight breeze greeted our family outing. Each member did their part to assemble a splendid picnic.

However, the gentle breeze unexpectedly gained a wind speed of noticeable strength. The napkins and other paper items started to loft with the air currents. Plates that were not weighted down adequately started to dance with the wind.

Unfortunately, I had not noticed the strength of the breeze until it was too late. I could not catch my plate as it lofted toward my brother. Bake beans splattered across his white shirt. I heard my family laugh hysterically as I sat embarrassed and silent.

A moment to forget was all I wished for that episode. The truth is, that now, many years later, it has become one of the most memorable picnics my siblings recall.

The flying beans humiliated me then in ways I could not explain at the time. Now, thank you, beans for making a lasting memory for us all.

Picnic time. . . making unexpected memories.

Skipping Stones

“‘Finding just the right shape is the key.” Nellita’s memories of dad included a variety of personal moments. Spending a day at Lake Picnic, she could hear his voice again like it was yesterday. In reality, fifty years had evaporated.

Recalling sweet times brought sorrow along for the ride. “He died too soon. My little sister has no memories of our dad. And he was a great dad.”

She bent over and selected a stone her father would have specifically chosen. Smooth on one side, round, and it had to fit into her hand comfortably. Scheming for the perfect wave coming towards the shore, Nellita drew her right arm back. With as much strength that she could retrieve, she watched the hand at the end of her arm fling the stone toward the lake.

The distinct plop of the rock dropping into the water a mere four feet in front her brought her thoughts back to the current time. “He’s gone. And Parkinson’s has stolen my strength.”

“I thought those days would last a life time,” her grieving emotions ached to hug her dad one more time.

Come to Higgins Valley Moments and skip stones with Nellita. She needs you.

Skipping stones with dad, just one more time, please.

Higgins Valley: Where is it?

You know that small town where everyone knows each other’s name? More than that, the place where people talk about how each street name was chosen.

The place where you think it is. . . that’s where you’ll find Higgins Valley. Many people think about a quiet, familiar town. A lake not too far from town with a perfect picnic ground describe the hometown essence of Higgins Valley.

Yet, the people, as presumably predictable as one might think, initially, are not always as they seem. Readers can hear what individuals are thinking. However, neighbors do not know as much as they assume.

So, what happens next? Anything.

Book One: I Will Stand Up Again, invites readers to meet the people, learn some challenges, and identify with unique individuals. In Higgins Valley Moments, Book Two continues when change shocks their solitude. Book Three. . . stay tuned.

Higgins Valley in spring, summer, autumn, and winter
. . . in real life.

Where did all the Money GO?

Ella was forgetful. Naomi, her daughter, witnessed times when Ella clearly repeated herself, forgot obvious events, and misplaced things she never did before.

Denial was easier than facing the fear that her mother may have Alzheimer’s. Naomi had known, first hand, the personal side of memory loss. When her friend from the grocery store revealed Ella’a declining cognition.

“The first time Ella didn’t have enough money to pay for her groceries, I was embarrassed for her. So I chipped in a couple of bucks. But the next time it was closer to ten dollars. Now, she owes me almost two hundred dollars. She thinks she doesn’t have to pay any more. I’m not sure why.”

The news got worse when Naomi heard, “Ella keeps asking where the milk is. We haven’t moved the coolers since the store opened. Why can’t she remember?”

How does a daughter look into her mother’s eyes and inquire about Alzheimer’s disease? Where does she even start?

“Don’t Forget Your Hat” details the journey of a family facing Alzheimer’s. Naomi’s choices, good and bad, demonstrate the complex challenges she experienced. The book is a valuable resource for any family walking the Alzheimer’s path. Support groups can find guidance for discussion from the issues portrayed in “Don’t Forget Your Hat.”

“Don’t Forget Your Hat” is available at Amazon and Barn & Noble. The answers you are searching for may be found with the “case of the missing dessert. You’ll be surprised where and when they found it.

One family’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease.

Alone: What Stories it Tells

On the top of a not too distant hill stands a tree. All by itself. How did that happen. Were there other trees a long time ago? If there were, what happened to them? If that tree always did stand alone, how did it get so tall, all alone?

Even as youngsters the girls would walk up the hill and make up stories about their tree. The storm that blew down the other trees had a different saga each time they told it.

Then there was the tale of early settlers who planted one tree to be seen by all sides. It announced they were finally home. Fields on each side look up to the statement of ownership, the tree.

Funny, none of the town people could recall a time before the tree. They had handed down details of every street and even the lakes. But the tree had no tale. Well, no tale according to the people of Higgins Valley.

However, the tree was not unimportant. Decades later, the girls, now in their fifties, still treasured their childhood friend. Recanting stories, pretending adventures, or just spending a warm summer day, the tree would always be their childhood friend.

It makes one wonder what additional memories are yet to be savored by generations to come. . . in Higgins Valley.

One lone tree, but many adventures.