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Patty and the Tree

FIRST-PERSON

Posted: March 30, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 30, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

Shrines.

I think that kids, in their innocence, marvel at the ordinary.

The ordinary is, of course, a facade donned by adults to proclaim their sophistication. If the truth were known, the ordinary is always awesome.

The kids are right; the world is fresh and new, it’s the adults that grow old and stale.

If big people were to take a moment from their work and obligations to recall their youth, I'd bet they'd find a shrine or two; if lucky, perhaps a huge shrine, a golden shrine erected by bursts of child insight.

I have such a shrine. A girl and a tree, or maybe it’s a tree and a girl.

As a pre-pubescent boy, they're not much different. Yet they are, and as I close my eyes, I see my shrine a bit more clearly: a girl in a tree.

The girl is Patty, the tree is gone.

I last saw Patty when she was in her teens and simply cannot accept the notion she's become middle aged, like myself.

Actually, I can't remember her as a teenager because at that age I was so frightened of girls that I immersed myself in science, rejecting the ladies in stark terror. I am unable to conjure her up in my memory as a young woman with breasts and a silly giggle.

But somehow, she beckoned me away from self-centeredness and made me see another person. This in spite of the fact that young boys and girls cultivate a strange fetish: mutual hatred.

It's all put on, of course, but it’s a fashionable past time before the roaring hormones throw man and woman together forever. Hence, the girls go their way and shun the boys who in turn scorn the girls as unworthy. So Patty and I had no use for one another at age nine or ten.

None.

A shrine requires an altar and mine was the tree.

I don't know what kind of tree it was, but it was perfectly climbable. Halfway up the block, it threw a mottled shadow on the sidewalk and large emerald leaves screened its inner reaches from the stares of passer-byes. It appeared to be rather ordinary from the adult perspective, but became a wonder for me.

The first time we climbed the tree together made no impression, and thus I have no recollection of the event. I'm sure we shunned and scorned appropriately.

As a crack tree climber, I must have valued her ability to scale the heights, in a dress yet! Perhaps that was the catalyst that drew me to her.

Soon, however, we'd met daily in the tree. Glory!

My days became a troika: longing to find Patty in the tree, rejoicing with Patty in the tree, and the aching memory of the day's encounter.

I longed for her. I wanted nothing but to be with her, smell her clean aroma and watch her hair waltz in the summer breeze. The images of her are as vital to me today as if I had just climbed down out of the tree a moment ago.

She became my shrine.

Patty was slender. Her skin was baby smooth and fair although the summer sun cast a bold blush on her cheeks. She had fine, straight teeth, which, at that age, were a bit too big for her face. Her eyes were blue, but not ice blue. I think Patty had a gold streak in one iris, but my daughter has a distinct mark, so I might be confusing them.

Her mother cut Patty's blond hair short so the glittering wisps fluttered about her face bringing a magical animation to her smile. She dressed, not in tennies and jeans as is the fashion today, but in plaid dresses and lacy socks peeking about her delicate ankles.

Her laugh was soft and shy and her hands moved quietly when she talked. Patty had a habit of glancing occasionally to the ground as if she were afraid to hold your eyes too long. She listened to my boyish boasting and endured my pompous pronouncements.

We blended together and linked forever, that summer. But then, after a while, new adventures beckoned and our trysts in the aerie gradually became less frequent.

Ultimately, we stopped meeting altogether and went on to other things, the way kids do.

Today, I still glance fondly at her parent's house as I drive to my folk's place for a visit (both families still live in the same place 40 years later).

The tree is gone and I'm uncertain exactly where it stood. I'm bothered that I don't remember where it was; it’s like losing Westminster Abbey.

Patty and the tree are a gemstone in my life. I've set the stone in the gold statuary of my past and it glitters like a beacon. The memory has become a shrine to honor a fine person, a sweet moment in time and passage to now.

My days in adulthood seem gray and blurred, like rain slithering down a window. Yet Patty beckons from the past and I nod in homage to our shrine. There have been other shrines, one or two, but none so warm as this.

Remember your shrines.

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