The Balloon Tree (~1950 – 2021)

In the long ago, in the waning years of the early half of the twentieth century, a silver maple tree found its way to the middle of the front yard of what would become my childhood home. There, it grew large, some 40 feet into the California valley sky in front of what started as a small ranch home, and grew into the house where my parents raised three kids, countless pets of beloved memory, and provided shade for the family, and protection. Some 30 inches in diameter, it was a tree that you couldn’t quite get your arms around, no matter how hard you tried.

This was a special tree, and while it produced thousands and thousands of little helicopters each year, it also bore fruit on our birthdays, bouncing balloons, held with shimmering serpentine ribbon. The balloon tree, and its partner, a second soaring maple, lost to disease more than a decade ago, were the bannermen announcing birthdays and holidays with large sheets as canvas. Welcome Margaret Elizabeth they shouted as my sister came home from the hospital.

The balloon tree came down today, a victim to its old age, and not wanting to have to replace the roof, or a car, or mourn a person if it came down in an uncontrolled fashion.

I will long remember the branches of that tree bedecked in orange balloons, with drawn jack-o-lantern faces done every October 30th with our friend Uncle Jack. He always drew the spookiest jack-o-lanterns, and they always danced in the cold autumn breeze on the corner of A St and B St in the middle of Davis, California.

We have some rounds of the balloon tree, and I know some helicopters were gathered up from its last spring. Some day, there will be another tree there, but in my mind’s eye, the tree I will always imagine there will be that lovely silver maple, tall and strong, beneath the scorching sun of the Central Valley.

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