The Chestnut Tree

There was a survivor tree
in the yard of my childhood home
whose branches draped low and
whose top soared past my bedroom window,
oblivious to the pernicious parasite that felled its brethren.

In spring the abundant leaves
flaunted an effusiveness of flowers
forty feet of messy but majestic blooms,
the only reason for the tree’s continued existence in Mom’s opinion.
The blooming period was followed by the sprouting period
where the hard won grass on that shady section of the lawn
was invaded by seedlings, sprung from roots,
vanquished week after week
by a lawnmower on a commando mission.
In the fall, chestnuts in gleaming browns
matching my dog’s soulful eyes,
were pried from their spiky shells
scooped by the bucket full,
and used as gems to decorate my dresser,
as markers to play games,
even as students to play school.
On cold nights these precious gifts could be roasted,
destroying their beauty but yielding their nurturing, nutty softness.

Four decades later, from 3000 miles away, I was drawn back
to that house of 100 plus years,
standing strong, resplendent in its new paint job.
But it was standing alone, the chestnut tree was gone,
the house’s stature, the eager joy in my heart, both diminished.
Did I expect that time would treat my survivor gently?
Beauty is not a defense against deterioration,
nor memories a bulwark against the reality of loss.
I peered over the hedge,
imagining I could find seedlings under the snow.