In Jet’s mind, a “park” is a place with swings and slides, so I wasn’t really surprised that she was disappointed the first time I took her to a park with hiking paths and trees. I didn’t have any idea, however that she would panic at the sight of the looming trunks under a canopy of leaves. She was certain that one would fall on her at any moment. I resolved to 1) take her into this sort of park more often and 2) refer to some parks only as “woods.”
Happily, our latest trip to a wooded area went very well. Jet’s grandpa and I took her to one of our favorite places and a favorite of my family as well. “Mommy and Aunt Mary used to come here with their grandpa when they were little, and he took me here when I was little too!” Jet likes family stories and I, of course am more than happy to share them with her.
I told her how I would walk to the site of the “Three Sisters,” a group of very old white oaks with my dad and siblings. “Just like you three girls,” he’d always say. “This one is the oldest, there’s the middle sister and over there is the baby sister!” The trees were only about 500 years old in my youth and sadly the marks of the intervening 50 years are very evident today. The oldest sister has a circumference of 226 inches and still reaches 141 feet to the sky but her leaves and those of the youngest sister seem sparse. They don’t look good. The middle sister succumbed to a fire and eventually fell where she still lies. I made sure not to share this factoid with Jet, however.
The clearest evidence of the sister’s decline is that members of the park staff have removed the fencing meant to protect them from sightseers. They are completely accessible, just like when I was young. “Jet, look! You can touch one of these trees!”
Jet gives me the “think again, Grandma” face. “I don’t want to.”
“This is very important to Grandma. I don’t know how much longer these trees will be here and I want you to have the chance to touch one!” Eventually, Jet agreed to let Papa take her to see the tree while I snapped photos of the event.
We also visited another family favorite, the Osage Orange Tunnel. Jet needed no encouragement to walk beneath the arch made by the branches of these smaller trees. We told her about the large green fruit balls that come from the trees (also known as hedge apples). “Can I touch one?”
Her Papa and I answered in one voice, “No! They are really sticky!” Someday, when I have a wad of wipes in my pocket I’ll let her check them out.
Somehow, as always happens when I visit these woods, we took a longer trail than we intended. I was tired and Jet wanted to be carried back to the car. We all had a good nap after lunch. Jet must have lay in the bed listening for a while when she woke. “Grandma, this house is really, really quiet at nap time! Where were you?”
“Did you think we left you?” Jet looked up with big solemn eyes and nodded.
“Oh no, sweetie! Papa and I were just sleeping too!” Jet grinned and held up her arms.
“Get my snack and we can snuggle!”