From the Sky - Part IV

From the Sky - Part IV

By James M. O'Meara, © 2009

(Need to catch up on From the Sky? Just click here to read Part I, here to read Part II, or here to read Part III!)

Vini - Bianchi

Vini Bianchi...

They play well together, our children. Where do they get all that energy? Look at them run! Your girls love that swing set, don't they? My boys beeline right to the jungle gym. David is fearless; he climbs right to the top, lickety-split. Donnie is the tentative one. He goes up a bit, stops to consider things a moment, and climbs a little higher …but rarely all the way up. They're identical in appearance only, my boys. Donnie loves grilled cheese and tomato, but David pulls out the tomatoes and leaves them on his plate. David: Plain milk. Donnie: Chocolate only, please. A million little differences offset all that physical sameness. But they both love this park, and they both love to climb. At least they won't fall very far if they take a tumble. Not like with trees: you can fall a long way out of a tree. Believe me, I know. And it's not a matter of if they fall off the jungle gym one day, is it? It's a matter of when. But they'll probably just dust themselves off and start climbing again, no harm done.

Now there's nothing wrong with a little tree climbing, I suppose. It's safer these days, too. They make all kinds of fancy tree-climbing gear now: Harnesses. Helmets. Climbing boots. It's practically a science. But if a child wants to climb, they're going to climb, with or without all the paraphernalia. If you can't afford the hardware, just stick to the jungle gyms and keep your kids out of the trees.

That's actually odd advice, coming from me. I climbed more than my share of trees growing up. There was no hi-tech gear: just hands and sneakers. I was full-blooded tom-boy, and as I saw it trees were fated to be climbed. It was part of their job description, like giving shade or providing a good home for birds. And oh, did I climb! I was fearless, like my David. I could go higher than most of the boys in the neighborhood, too. I was really quite good; I only had one bad fall.

My Uncle Gio once had a good climbing tree in his backyard. It was a honey locust, and each autumn reddish-brown pods …a half-foot or more in length, some of them …would fall all around the tree. Uncle gathered them up to make a homemade beer from the soft pulp found within those seed pods. He said the Indians did that, long ago. We would eat the pulp sometimes, as a treat after school. I remember it was sweet, a kind of honey-molasses taste. I think he even made a sort of sugar from it. Sometimes Uncle would let me climb up the tree a little ways and sit on the lower branches. I couldn't have easily done that on a wild honey locust. They have long, nasty thorns all around their trunks that would make you think twice or six times about trying to conquer them. Uncle said you could use the thorns of a wild honey locust for nails, they were that hard. He knew a lot about trees, my Uncle Gio. While the honey locust in his backyard was of the thornless variety, there were still a few stray thorns here and there to keep me on my toes. I learned quickly to be careful about where I reached when I worked my way up the trunk, and also to wear jeans instead of slacks, which snagged easily and weren't much protection from that occasional thorn.

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