A Digression: Jane Lawton, Tree Hugger
Some of you may remember that my mother, Jane Lawton, passed away five years ago today.
[Newcomers, many apologies - a few times a year I subject you to an essay that includes a few memories of my mother. If you want to catch up, previous posts include The Lady Loved Pink, Begin Again, Live Like You Mean It, and Beautiful Things, Mothers. But do feel free to go somewhere else for your bloggy reading today. Catherine has an important style question for you, while Ann is giving away yarn. And Franklin always makes me glad to be a knitter.]
I missed Mom a lot last night, as I sat in bed with the fabulous Alexandra Jane and wondered what Mom would have thought of her namesake. [Answer: she would have adored her, especially Alex's first joke -- the funny deep growl she makes because she knows we'll laugh at it.]
It’s hard to have this baby and know that she’ll never know my mother. I wish there were a way to capture Mom’s essence for Alex, but there isn’t. There are just stories. Last night, I worried that I couldn’t remember enough about Mom. With every day that goes by, a little more of a person who has died slips away. One just has to hope to hold on to enough of them to be able to honor their memory.
So the story I’m remembering today is about the tree in the front yard of the house in which I grew up. It was a nice tree, a cherry tree, that blossomed each spring the way the ones down on the mall do. And, when I was a kid, I liked to sit in the fork of the tree and read. It was outside, it offered a nice view, it was a sort of whimsical thing to do, and it gave me a little privacy.
Technically, the tree belonged to the Town of Chevy Chase, where we lived. And one day some guys from the town tried to cut it down.
I’m not blaming them, you understand; according to them, the tree was diseased and they had to get rid of it. They just had a job to do, etc. I’m sure they successfully cut down a few trees that day and saved the town from whatever blight those trees had. Unfortunately for them, they came across Jane Lawton next.
She didn’t want the tree cut down, so she did what any rational woman would do: she brought her daughter, age 6 or 7, out to the tree and had her sit in it until the men went away.
“This is my daughter’s tree,” she explained (as I remember it). “She loves this tree. You aren’t cutting it down.”
They left eventually. The tree lived through whatever was ailing it, and the last time I checked was still in the yard, although the house doesn’t belong to us any more. And, as those of you who have met my mother might have guessed, she ended up being friends with one of the men later on. Because she liked everyone, and Mark was a pretty nice guy. Heck, he didn’t cut down the tree.
Here’s the fun thing about this story: Alex absolutely loves trees right now. Especially while the leaves were changing, she would just stare and stare at them. The day I brought her a leaf was a high point in both of our lives. And, a couple of weeks ago, when Mr. Trask took her to Christ Church Meadow and let her touch some trees, he says she looked at him like he had introduced her to The Beatles, or Sting, or whoever it is the kids are listening to these days. I got to come along on the next tree-hugging excursion, when we let her sit in her first tree.
People, you would have thought she had died and gone to heaven. It was the exact opposite of the swimming lessons debacle. She didn’t even mind wearing the fuzzy suit, for a little while. And as I took this photo of her sitting in the tree, I suddenly remembered my reading tree, and the day Mom and I saved it.
So last night I told Alex the story of how Mom outwitted the tree surgeons. And maybe someday she’ll remember Mom, when she’s sitting in a tree with flowers all around her. For today, that’s more than enough.
Thanks again, Mom.