The Beech Tree

The giggling girl and boy crept up to me as quietly as their childish mannerisms would allow, glancing all about to ensure that the deed they were about to commit in broad daylight would remain unseen. Then they carved their initials in me, a secret sign of their affections, commemorated forever a yard above my grassy roots.

~~~

I had the pleasure of knowing many children at that parsonage, from the families who lived there to those who attended church next door, and of course the neighbors. I had a fondness for the ones across the street, whom I could only will love upon from my place in the front yard. I knew they needed the love, though.

Like these young ones, I heard the late-night music of the next-door neighbors, saw their blazing campfires through the hedge late at night—the kids thought it frightening, but imagine me! I can’t move, and I’m made of wood! —and watched many a car use the church lot to turn around when they were misguided.

They were good times.

My leathery grey skin and pointed oval leaves basked in a good deal of sunlight and weathered quite a few thunderstorms as the children rode the rope swing literally to pieces, considered the engraving left by that young couple, and gazed up at my smooth branches trying to discern who I was.

The kids relished the autumn when they could rake up and jump in my fallen leaves. They felt accomplished to gather those mounds of feathery gold and joyful to disturb them into a flurry, a fluff, a frizzle, as one might say. I never quite understood the point, but it made me laugh, and their pride rubbed off on me, for I had given them the gift of those leaves—unlike the backyard oaks who were stingy and held on to their dull brown ones until March.

I was generous. I was a pillar. I wasn’t well known, per se, but I know they needed me. They needed me for play and for shade and for their intellect as they studied science. I helped them with all that as their front yard beech tree.

I’m here still, just waiting for more children to run unto this side of the yard again and entertain me with their antics. They’ll come to rely one me soon enough. Everyone needs a tree like me in order to engrave their legend.

Advertisements
PC: KSB

Introduction to Memoirs of the Trees, a new blog series

I grew up in New England, surrounded by forests. Trees dwelt in my yard, encompassed our vehicle as we drove around town, sat watch at Sleeping Giant where we hiked regularly, and huddled in New York’s Adirondack Mountains where we traveled some summers.

Apple trees lay below us on Blue Hills Road on the way from Cheshire to North Haven. Above me, below me, and around me in Connecticut were oaks, beeches, maples, and pines of earth brown, spotted yellow, vibrant maroon, and green of all shades. No other region of the U.S. can compare to the diversity of foliage in New England.

Perhaps you have heard of Ents. If you’ve read Lord of the Rings, you know of their wisdom and the histories that lie deep within their hearts in the Fangorn Forest.

In this blog series, Memoirs of the Trees, I would like to share the histories of specific trees whose lives have crossed mine. In this way, I will honor the trees that have impacted my life.

Perhaps the tree will share a particular moment in its life, or perhaps it will describe a stretch of years. Spun from my reality, these stories will include creative elements stretching back into history, imagined occurrences as well as actual connections had with humans.

Enjoy this blog series and take some time to honor the land that has shaped you. Next week will begin the first of many stories regarding trees that I hold dear. Thank you.

Surprise Thanksgiving trip through New England: a photo account

IMAG0470[1]

At 3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, I left my house in Wheaton. At 6 a.m., I flew from Chicago O’Hare to New England for a surprise trip home.

IMAG0436[1]

Besides my parents, my cousin Jonathan was the only one outside of Wheaton who knew I had no way home. I’d tried all semester to find a ride to CT for Thanksgiving, but everyone from CT was either flying back or staying around campus. A week before break, I still had no way home. Because I couldn’t afford a plane ticket, Jonathan let many of my other cousins, aunts and uncles know so they could chip in to buy me one. “It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without you,” he told me when I thanked him. I told my dad about God’s provision before another cousin asked me to keep it a surprise, but my mom and sister had no idea I was going to Thanksgiving with them.

12308188_1865187243707599_5918446717276646137_o

My Aunt Carol and cousin Becky picked me up from the Providence airport, and we visited a park in Rhode Island that Wednesday. Here I pretended to be queen of the castle.

12307474_1865188503707473_6302619814320138737_o

Becky and I ran up hills and climbed trees. I loved seeing hills, rock faces, and tunnels of trees again! New England is beautiful–especially Connecticut! 😉

12314179_1865188903707433_3109789775481695197_o

Rhode Island has a unique beauty, though. It’s quaint, with lots of little streets. We had fun adventuring around the city (a.k.a. being lost on the way to the park).

12291930_1865189197040737_4736546594543712992_o

Then I visited a tropical island for a minute…I mean, we stopped at a smoothie place in Massachusetts since I hadn’t eaten. Next we continued on to my aunt’s house in New Bedford, MA, where I played with a three year old the family nannies, ate lunch, and napped for eight straight hours. (Oops. I had meant to play family games, but apparently two hours of sleep before a red eye flight exhausts a girl.) I woke up for a couple hours to eat dinner at 10:30 p.m. and wrap presents, and then I slept for another six or seven hours until the morning!

 

12309663_1865189430374047_1411784972385708102_o

We proceeded on to Connecticut, my beautiful old home, for the family picnic in Cochester.

12248236_1865189620374028_4916948008535778295_o

At the family picnic, I met some soon-to-be relatives, baby London and cousin Matt’s fiance N’Gella. I also surprised mom by being there. It took forever to get her attention, but she finally turned around and saw me. Becky Bailey captured her initial reaction on camera. Mom’s words upon seeing me? “Oh now that’s not even fair.” (She didn’t like that I had deceived her.)

12314740_1865189653707358_8781834873705415599_o

But mom was happy I was there!

12291730_1865189777040679_2615784539800363121_o

*mom hugs*

12309969_1865189713707352_6550583513426619496_o

My sister Hannah was excited, too. She exclaimed, “WHAT?!” and then did a jig.

12291040_1865190053707318_5115452293247257404_o

While my dad made mashed potatoes for most of the 52 people in attendance, I mashed a small bowl for the dairy free among us.

Bennett family photo Thanksgiving 2015

After eating, we played football. I made a touchdown at the start of the first game! We ended up losing that game, but my team was 2-1 in the end. Typically those who play football shovel coal afterwards since that’s how Aunt Penni and Uncle Rick heat their house for the winter, but they had already done that, so we went straight to the pie eating, conversing and hymn singing. I spent 10 hours total at their house this Thanksgiving Day!

IMAG0452[1]

On the way to the house in which I was staying overnight, my subconscious dream came true: we went through Hubbard Park and saw the lights!! I hadn’t seen them for two or three years!

IMAG0455[1]

The lit globe has always been my favorite.

IMAG0458[1]

On Friday morning I went to Cheshire Coffee with my friend Jared. It was SO good to catch up with him!! He was the only friend I’d told about my visit since I thought I wouldn’t have time to see anybody. I also thought I wouldn’t be able to visit my old towns, Cheshire and North Haven, but both expectations were surpassed: we drove through both towns, and since Jared had to work at 9:30 a.m., I had the rest of the day to see other people. First I had the pleasure of visiting my old hangout, Music Center of North Haven. I even saw Mark, Mary and Donna Minotti!

IMAG0460[1]

Then, since I was free until 2:30 p.m., Daddy Vecchio picked me up from Music Center and brought me to East Haven, where I saw the whole family–including cousin RiRi. Tyler was even home from Niger, which was a surprise to me!

IMAG0461[1]

I loved being back with my second family, the Vecchios! We’ve all grown, but some things definitely stayed the same. 😉

IMAG0462[1]

Mia and I played our original song, “I Like Cats,” as well as “Safe and Sound,” “Oceans ” and others on guitar, just like we used to do every weekend in high school. Although I hadn’t seen nor sung with her since May 2014, we remembered our harmonies! Then Mama and I dropped her off at work because she’s an adult now! (Side note: I feel so old when I say how much time has passed since I saw my old friends and family!)

IMAG0468[1]

Silas practiced blowing bubbles–he just learned on Tuesday–and Mama fed me. She and I talked with her for an hour or so. I can’t express how happy I am to have seen them! Then several other cousins tag-teamed to get me back to the Providence airport that Friday night, and by 10p.m. I had landed in Chicago again. What a beautiful whirlwind of a break!

 

 

A List of New England Things

“You know you’re a ____ if” lists and “20 things about _____” articles are popular right now. Being bullet point style, they’re easy for Millennials to skim, and they appeal to our sense of identity. Inspired by these attractive albeit shallow articles, I’ve constructed a list of New England identifiers.

Not all of these apply to me personally, having been socialized in Evangelical circles and a private Christian school in Connecticut, but I’ve seen or experienced nearly everything on this list. Keep in mind that these are generalizations and that most of them center on Connecticut.

I could read into many of these and write full blogs for almost every bullet point, but I’ll limit my analysis in this blog and let you get into that in the comments below.

  • New Englanders are known for being “cold” and unfriendly, but at least we’re direct with what we feel.
  • Atheism pervades everything. Even most Catholics are nominal only; my dad would call many people “practicing atheists.” God is never mentioned or welcomed. But people are more receptive than you might expect, if only you initiate. This applies from religious conversations to simple hellos.
  • We’re known for our gorgeous foliage, but we experience all four seasons to their fullest extents, roughly three months each and each one vibrant in its stage of life.
Eating DF ice cream with my mom in Cheshire, CT, the month before I left for college in the Midwest.

Eating dairy free ice cream with my mom in Cheshire, CT, the month before I left for college in the Midwest. Summer 2013.

  • Apple and pumpkin picking are regular autumn activities.
  • Effectiveness and productivity are how we work. We may be running around all the time, over-busy and workaholics, but we get the work done.
  • We have nasty beaches with no waves. Our water is brown.
  • Hiking is readily available, from nature trails within minutes to mountains within a few hours’ drive. And by hiking, I mean forests and hills and rock faces and curvy trails, not flat nature walks.
  • We say “I’m all set” instead of wordy expressions such as “I’m finished, thank you” or “I have what I need.” At least, that’s what I say, and I’ve never met anyone from another region of the States who says “I’m set”!
  • In Connecticut, we eat lots of pasta. Carbs and other simple, unhealthy foods are staples for many.
  • We have a lot of American Italian influence in CT as well.
  • If you’re not Italian (or in addition to being Italian), you’re a “European mutt,” meaning you have some English and probably two to four other European countries in your heritage. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were able to trace your lineage back to a figure from early America!
Spending the end of my time in CT with my dear friend Mia, who is 3/4 Italian and 1/4 Swedish. I'm English, Scottish (my dad's side of the family, so the New England side), Irish, French and a tad bit German (my mom's side of the family from Philly). August 2013.

Spending the end of my time in CT with my dear friend Mia, who is 3/4 Italian and 1/4 Scandinavian. I’m English, Scottish (my dad’s side of the family, so the Connecticut side), Irish, French and a tad bit German (my mom’s side of the family from Philly). August 2013.

  • We are taxed through the ROOF. Literally, look at how many houses are for sale or foreclosed. Everyone’s moving South.
  • We know snow. We can get it feet at a time, depending on the winter. And because of that, we don’t know so much of summer. Our schools probably get out the latest out of all the regions in the States, basically bestowing only two months of summer vacation. But we have record snow days in winter!
  • Many people are wealthy and go skiing in winter. But we’re not all financially rich! For example, I lived in a blue collar community.
  • We keep to ourselves and don’t usually know our neighbors. Town sports through local community centers connect youth and their parents well, however.
  • We were Abolitionists some 150 years ago, and we don’t experience much publicized racism, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
  • We’re mostly White people, and as for Connecticut, we’re fairly suburban. In my experience, the racial and class differences between the cities, suburbs, and rural areas are clear.
  • People will go to Cape Cod or Rhode Island for vacations, but they neglect all Connecticut has to offer.
  • Nonetheless, historical landmarks abound in New England–the Nathan Hale homestead, Noah Webster’s house, Plymouth Rock–the list goes on.
My friend and I parting ways after attending a yearly Christian summer camp in Massachusetts. August 2013.

My friend and I parting ways after attending a yearly Christian summer camp in Massachusetts. August 2013.

  • We also have a variety of museums from the Peabody Museum of Natural History, the Butterfly Museum, and the Yale University Art Gallery, to name a few. Keep heading east in Connecticut near Rhode Island for more options dealing with marine life.
  • Speaking of Yale, all eight Ivy League schools are located in the Northeast. In the six states that officially compose New England (ME, NH, VT, MA, CT, RI), we have four of the eight: Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard and Yale.
  • We’re also known for our seafood and clam chowder, especially in Maine.
  • People go boating on the weekends.
  • We do not have a lot of (contemporary) Christian radio stations (if any), and, at least in southern New England, we only have one country station per region. Pop music it is.
Saying goodbye after visiting some of my cousins in CT, who also enjoy Country 92.5 FM. May 2014.

Saying goodbye after visiting some of my cousins in CT, who share my appreciation for Country 92.5 FM. May 2014.

  • We have amusement and water parks for children (ex. Lake Quassy in CT) and for the whole family (ex. Lake Compounce in CT and Six Flags New England, located in Massachusetts literally a couple miles from the CT border. Bizarro, formerly known as the award-winning steel roller coaster Superman, is housed at here, with its 221 foot drop, 77mph speed and lengthy three and a half minute ride. It’s my favorite.)
  • We root for the Patriots each football season, but as for baseball, you’re either a die-hard Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees fan. In Massachusetts you practically have to be a Sox fan, and nearby NY takes the Yankees, but CT is a total mix. Be careful with whom you side!

Have any New England-isms to add? Comment below!