Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Reading Tree

When I was a little girl there were no shopping malls or summer camps or swimming pools. During our summer break from school my oldest brother and I attended community church sponsored Vacation Bible Schools (which I loved), we sat on the front porch and played games, and we played in the yard and roamed the woods behind our house. I looked forward to my Summer Weekly Reader (delivered by the United States Postal Service on Tuesday mornings), and we went to the summer library program provided by our elementary school.

The library was open Wednesday mornings during the summer months.  The limit was three books, so I chose my books carefully.  My favorite authors were Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beverly Cleary, and Sydney Taylor. I also read a great many biographies, because there's nothing more interesting than people's lives. The non-fiction books held great interest for me too. Doesn't every little girl want to know the location of the great rivers of the world?

Back home from the library, I'd put one of my books, an old pillow, a bologna or potted meat sandwich, a Little Debbie snack cake and a  thermos of Kool-Aid in an old pillowcase, tie it up with a string and go to my grandparent's house. They lived across the pasture from us, and they had the best-climbing tree you ever saw in their front yard. It was a mimosa. A lot of people don't care for mimosas. They are not native to Southeast Tennessee, they are invasive, they are messy, but they are pretty, they smell good and they are easy to climb!

About five feet up, three limbs made a perfect seat. I'd climb the tree, holding the pillowcase, and when I reached the three limbs I'd get my pillowcase out and make myself comfortable. Leaning back against the limbs, I'd get my book out and loose myself in the story for the afternoon. When I got hungry, I'd reach into the pillowcase for my sandwich. When I got thirsty, I'd drink the Kool-Aid from my thermos. And I always looked forward to my Little Debbie Snack Cake. It didn't matter what kind it was.

I traveled many miles in that mimosa tree. I went back to the past and met our Founding Fathers. I spent time on the prairie with Mary and Laura. I learned about honeybees, how to braid hair, I met five little Jewish sisters who lived in New York City in the early 1900s, I read about dogs and horses and birds, learned about the constellations and cycles of the moon, and different rivers of the world, I spent time with four Little Women who lived during the Civil War. I read about the cities of our great country, I read about the earthquakes that formed Reelfoot Lake and I read and I read and I read........

Five feet off the ground in a sweet smelling tree filled with pretty pink blossoms, with a good book, a pillow, and a little food in a pillowcase. That's all I needed to make me happy back in those seemingly innocent days.

My Reading Tree has been gone many years, but I can still take you to the place where it used to be. And every year when the mimosas bloom it takes me back to those days when I was a little girl in my corner of Appalachia.

The pictures of the mimosa trees included in this post were taken this afternoon. Two mimosas drape over my driveway.   In the early mornings, when it's dark and still outside, while Hub and I sit on the porch  and have our morning coffee together, their fragrance glides through the air.  Yes, they are messy! But, if you ever smelled their delicately sweet smell you would think they are worth the mess.

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