|My willow and me, about 1948-49 |
8124 West Rivershore Drive, Cayuga Island, Niagara Falls, NY
Perhaps I was swaddled. I had no desire to turn my back to the beauty, to roll over or crawl away. Perhaps I was younger than I imagine. Born in June, that first four months would have been the time this early memory occurred. If I had known there was such a thing as God, I would have been sure it was the Weeping Willow.
The next year my mother tied me to the tree. The blanket was my boundary again. I could toddle a bit, yet she hollered and screamed at me so much to be still, to not go in the direction of the river, and to not walk myself around and shorten my tether that it was easier to just sit. I would reach out and grasp at the long threads gracing the grass and get lost in the veins lining the leaves. When my mother wasn't looking, I would bite into a branch and taste the bitterness. I liked the crunchy chewiness of the pulp. I knew the weeping willow didn't mind. She was my friend.
The following summer, there was no more hanging clothes on the line. A big white box sat in the basement in the laundry room. My mother would stand at the washing machine fishing the clothes out of it to squeeze them between the rollers. I was not allowed in the that room, but could stand in the doorway to watch the drying machine go around in circles. I was easily bored by the whole process. Much to my mother's consternation I wandered off to explore other parts of the basement.
"Don't go near the creek" I was warned so many times, I sang a song to the tree. "Don't go near the creek. It will take me away forever. My tree will really cry. Don't go near the creek." And I didn't. But, Dickie Culp did, and Bobby Baker did. They sat on the edge of the cement wall. Willow had provided them with their pretend fishing poles which they held out over the water. Bobbie went home when his mother called him. Then, I watched when Dickie arched his back, dropped his fishing pole shaking his arms and fell into the water with his eyes open, not blinking, not moving and began to float away. I ran along beside him for a while calling his name. But, he did not answer.
Recently, I used Google to look at the location where I lived as a little girl. I was disappointed to discover my willow tree is no longer there.