My dad stood beside me as we gazed up towards the sky. We discovered a time capsule that took the form of three massive evergreen trees. Their limbs danced above us, the wind acting as the conductor, creating music only they could hear. My eyes slowly made their way down the pillar-like trunks until I was scanning the dirt around my feet. Orange and yellow pine needles covered the ground where the trunks stopped and earth began. The reach of the trees went deep below the surface of the ground. Monstrous roots sprawled out in every direction, lifting the earth and emerging in some areas. The trees knew this place better than I did, and guarded the entrance of an outdated building. Today this was their home. Forty years ago, it was my dad’s elementary school.
My dad had just led me through an aged, weathered playground where small sandbox toys could be found scattered about. A swing set that had been rusted throughout the years squeaked gently as we passed. I began to wonder whether any of this looked familiar to him. Ever since I could remember, I had always been desperate to learn about the world that was alive before me. I wanted to know what was here before I was. I wanted to learn everything I could about everything I saw.
I was 12 years old and in the sixth grade. At the beginning of the year, I stood at 5’2”. Now it was the end of the school year. I had grown three inches and was 5’5”. I was a lot taller than the rest of my grade, and I liked that. The year had gone by slowly in my eyes, but in reality, I was growing exponentially, moving forward and progressing upward. I would soon be leaving my own elementary school.
We continued to stand beneath the trees. I looked up at my dad and saw a faint smile begin to form on his face. I continued to watch as he reached his arm out and placed a palm on the tree closest to him. “Wow,” he said quietly to himself, “they’ve gotten so big.” He did remember this place. I felt myself begin to well up with questions. “Were they here when you were a kid?” I formed an image of him in my mind, the same age as me. I created a picture of the place he had known all those years before. He didn’t look at me after I asked the question but instead continued to stare at the tree trunks. There was a momentary pause before he spoke. “I planted them,” he revealed.
I stood very still. My dad knew these trees and they knew him. In an instant, it seemed as though all the roots had emerged from the ground. They were now taking hold of my ankles, making their way up my body, wrapping around me and hugging me in place. I looked down at my feet again but now the earth beneath me held a new meaning. I imagined my dad in sixth grade with his feet planted in the same spot mine were at this moment. I could see him bending down and placing the seeds in the dirt in front of me.
I felt something I had never felt before. Strong emotions rippled through me. I looked over to my dad again. I saw a fifty-year-old man that had been reminded of his past. He was someone different now than he was all those years ago. I was in sixth grade. I had grown three inches that year. I don’t remember growing but it was happening. Everything around me was changing every day, and for the first time in my young life, I was standing witness to what life could become if given enough time to grow.
I realized that this growth would continue throughout my life. I wouldn’t see it happening but even so, I was never stagnant. When I think back on visiting the trees, I am reminded of how much possibility I hold within myself. When I go back to visit the three trees, they will have grown, just as I have. They won’t recognize me but I will know them.