“Not always possible, but today I took the time to translate and read you … I loved it! Congratulations for that sense of belonging, for your family and your trees, to build a life in which you feel full. I like red maples. They are warm and beautiful. No siempre me es posible, pero hoy me tomé el tiempo de traducir y leerte…Me encantó! Felicidades por ese sentimiento de arraigo, por tu familia y tus árboles, por construir una vida en la que te sientes pleno. Me gustan los arces rojos 😉 Son cálidos y hermosos.” –Elsa Bornay Delgado in Madrid
“It’s amazing how descriptive your writing is. Every time I so much as read a sentence from you, let alone a short story, I’m there–in the scene. I’m feeling the emotions of the characters and experiencing the events likewise! Thank you.” –Jessica Griffin
I share this each year in late October/early November and named it Home Trees because, for me, trees are full of symbolism. One morning, years ago, as I stepped out with Alpha and Beta—for our early morning walk to elementary school—I looked at my tree (you’ll read about it below). And thought: ‘How my life has grown in all the right ways. My love for my wife Daphne, my love for my four daughters… and me… I’ve grown in so many ways… still the same—at the core—as when younger but free to be even more me.’ [But let’s not speak of my waistline, that’s the wrong ‘me’ growth.]
After returning from walking them to school, I wrote ‘Home Trees.’
In 1995, we built our current home in a then-new subdivision and ours was one of the first houses constructed. The few that came before and many that came after chose palm trees for their yards. We wanted something different and picked a brace of red maples for the front yard. They’re located: one—my tree—square in front of my office window (by design to help shade it from the setting sun, since it faces due west) and the second in the corner on the other side of our garage and driveway.
When we moved in, our backyard had full-grown pine trees from a copse of woods behind our house. I remember meeting the contractor to mark the trees within our property line to keep. One corner inside the line didn’t have a tree, so my wife, Daphne, planted a crepe myrtle there after we moved in. Seemingly just a stick I did not think would live, that sapling became Cassidy’s tree (she’s my next oldest daughter who was born two months after we moved in). She grew up with that tree. As soon as she and it were sturdy enough… up the tree, she climbed. As it shot higher than she was tall, it was as if the tree stooped to lift her from the ground and held her as they looked out over their world.
We celebrate 25 years in our home this November 2020. My oldest daughter, now 32 years old, went from 7 to 22 here. My three other girls, from newborn babies to 24 and 19 (Alpha and Beta, our twins).
And my red maples, and Cassidy’s tree… they have grown to be beautiful, too!
The maples give me a taste of the changing seasons (something unfortunately not extensive, even in North Florida) that I savor. And as I look out my office window each day… I see my red maple, the one that stands just outside, and feel just as rooted as it.
In the backyard, Cassidy’s tree is tall, lean, and beautiful, just like her. I cannot see or think of it without visualizing a slideshow of Cassidy through the years. Just as I cannot look out on our backyard and not see my oldest, Karen, with her explorer kit and magnifying glass finding and studying ants and lizards (and regrettably where the Great Snake Incident occurred, when I deeply angered her by stupidly killing a harmless snake). I see my three youngest as babies, in their walkers, on the patio… the breeze blowing through their hair as they smiled up at a bright blue sky with the green needles of tall pines, in the background, glinting in the sun. I can still hear their laughter that rang in the air and was (is) such a joy. I see them as young children gathering pine cones for winter fires, and them chasing around with dogs running about. All my girls, at different ages, playing in and on their fort, and its attached swing and monkey bars (Amelia and Bonnie calling to me, “watch me… look at me, dad.” as they made their way across them the first several (dozen) times.
I’m firmly grounded with my lovely wife, daughters, dogs, and my trees… they all make me feel… at home. And I think of this line from an old(er) favorite song: (it’s okay, you can sing along with me):
“When I was young
I dreamed a young man’s dreams
I saw in your eyes
The things I’d never seen
But now I grow old
But I don’t really mind
Cause can’t you see… with my family
We’ll share these timeless memories.”
—Styx, This Old Man
The morning of November 15, 2019—a chilly (for Florida) gray dawn with rain alternating between drizzle and downpour—I stepped outside as Alpha and Beta (then seniors in high school) backed out of the garage. Not 15 minutes later, as I sat down to update this post (as I do each year), Alpha called, upset, her voice trembling, to tell me they just had a bad accident. Their car totaled, but thank God for airbags, they were shaken but not seriously hurt. My first thought was all the reasons I have to be thankful.
This beginning of November 2020, with all that’s going on in the world and America, we’re still thankful and pray for our loved ones who are battling COVID-19 along with so many others.
“I love this Dennis, I have planted trees in my children’s honour too and even though we have left that house, I return to marvel at their growth. We can do this, we can make a difference” –Paul Stickland in England
“Very nice!” –Irena Udovičić in Croatia
“Okay I just stumbled upon this and wow this is a very nice piece of writing!” –PV
“Your words are so colorful that I was actually able to ‘see’ your memories as you painted them on the page. I could hear the laughter of the girls as they were running around and having fun in your backyard. You do so know how to put words on paper in such a way as to help a person to be able to see what you want them to see. You are a truly remarkable writer. I love reading your stuff.” — Brenda Church
“I love your writing…I can see everything as I read it!! I so enjoy when you write about your life with your beautiful bride and daughters.” –Renee Mann
“So sweet.” –Julie Nader
“That is beautifully said.” –Susan E Dymond
“That’s lovely!” –Janet L Mix