I grew up in a northern New Jersey suburb. My family moved into this house August of 1994. I was three-years-old. I’ve spent nearly all my life here. And ever since I can remember, there has always been a magnolia tree growing right outside the bay window in the front yard. When I was younger, I used to climb that tree. I used to climb that tree until my feet were too big for its branches, before my mind became preoccupied with matters of perhaps a more practical, pragmatic sort. A time when my imagination ruled and was prioritized above all else.
This tree has always been a mainstay, but the blossoms would only last for a few days, maybe a week. Every Spring the firm buds on the tips of every branch would blossom and bloom to white and pink magnolia flowers. Their fragrance, unmistakable perfume. The petals would soon thereafter fall on the front lawn, making it look like snow from behind the corrugated glass panels on the front door. If you stole a glance from the top of the stairs, where the front door is squarely situated at the bottom, you could easily forget what season it was if it weren’t for the temperature. These fallen petals would then soon rot and decay; The rain would make them slippery and soft and these delicate petals would soon turn brown and dark. Their peak is always short. And perhaps like all things, die too quickly. These petals would get stuck to your shoes and get tracked into the house.
But I used to climb this tree as a child, situating my feet in firm footholds where thick branches would intersect with the trunk, or with other thick branches, the tree always higher than I could possibly climb it. Glancing up, I remember behold it’s top against the sky wishing I could climb higher if it weren’t for more delicate branches preventing me from doing so. Birds would cry out, wary of my presence in a tree they undoubtedly considered home. Climbing up, I can still feel the rough bark against my hands as I bent my knees and balanced between branches, hoping to get to the highest point where I would then sit on the branch and look down at the yard, satisfied, tasting the fresh air of the summer or autumn. I was never afraid, because my father usually wasn’t far, watching me and making sure I was careful. Coming down, I was sure to watch my step, balancing my weight with my descent, making sure my hands had a firm grip on the rough bark, jumping back down on the soft grass when I was done playing.