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Family Room General Magnolias, tree-climbing, and foundations
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Magnolias, tree-climbing, and foundations
When we moved into our new house we planted a magnolia tree right out front to claim the spot as ours. It is the only thing on our front lawn and it is right in the middle. At first it was hardly bigger than me, a tree-climbing six year old. But it grew fast and today it reaches almost as high as the power lines.

I never really thought magnolia trees were that attractive and my parents agreed, they said they chose it only because of its early summer bloom, giant white flowers that quickly peel off and layer the ground in a floral snow. Maybe the blanket lasts a couple weeks and for the rest of the year it's all green and brown.

For at least five years our house-family tree didn't bloom at all.We'd wait all of May and all of June for any sign of a bud but every year none would come. We worried our tree was broken or maybe it was the wrong sex. Everything else seemed to be in order and there was no sign of disease. It still wasn't climbing capable but it was growing voraciously all the same.

When my eldest sister left for college we were convinced we had planted a bloomingless tree. What luck, we thought, that we'd chosen a tree for its flowers only to find it incapable of growing them. But that spring of my sister's freshman year it happened. Our tree bloomed, but only one flower all summer. It was right at eye level and was as big as my head, and even whiter than I'd imagined. On the phone with my sister I told her all about it and how probably our tree was special and would only produce one flower a year but it would be the prettiest flower in our entire neighborhood if not the whole world.

The next year my theory was proved false and for two weeks in May our entire tree was coated in white. For every year after it's been the same, sometimes getting two or three bloomings as late as `august. For those few weeks it's as if our lawn ceases to be a lawn at all instead becoming a verdant frame and inside our family magnolia tree.

I've missed the blooming these last few years and my sisters and I have all moved out. This past fall our parents got divorced and the magnolia has seemed more lonely than before sitting all by itself in the absolute center of our front lawn. The apocalypse of snow hit us hard this winter and the magnolia got it too. My dad said it looked like a mirror image of the summer bloom, only crueler and hunched, a cone of white. When the snow melted the damage was revealed. Of the two main branches one had snapped at the base. My dad diligently cleared it away and sent me a picture. My six year old eyes fell down. Never will this tree be able to hold my weight and never will I be able to scramble up top and sit among the flowers, watching whatever my house and my lawn has to offer.

This summer I'll be home for the blooming and I worry about our magnolia's prospects. What happens to the flowers when finally the last leaves the house? Can it survive another winter? Will whoever comes next tend a single prized flower or will they cut it all down and start new?

I'm not worried about the blooming this summer, I'm worried about the growth. Can our tree grow any taller with half its base gone? Or is it done forever, never having reached a point above our roof?
Morgan, I just wanted to say thanks for the story.

One element which comes out of your story is the constant possibility of symbolism. Is that what you're worried about, or about the tree? It seems mixed. One should be careful in the way we charge different elements of our lives. This happened then that means I love him, that happened then that means I should leave her, etc. We very easily let elements take on supposed "significance" and effect our lives.
I think this comes from reading/listening/watching stories. As is mentioned in the Favorite literary device discussion, so many devices are responsible: Metaphor, Forshadowing, etc. We are used to elements carrying meaning and so we infuse that back to real life, where they shouldn't.
A nice example, in case you've seen it, is the movie Knowing.

But you obviously also simply care about the tree. It's a living being with whom you have been living and who has accompanied you all these years. I don't know to say but trees seem to me survivors. It is amazing what a tree will survive, but they live in a different time scale than us. 5 years for them is nothing.
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Latest Post: February 22, 2010 at 3:29 AM
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