A tree grows in Brooklyn ...

No ... that’s not right. They did make a movie out of that, but I’ve never been to Brooklyn. It should read “closer to home ...”

A tree grows in my back yard.

Well, that’s not exactly right, either.

The tree, once a gorgeous maple, is dying. It quit growing a long time ago and is now on life-support by Jesse Barksdale (Mike’s Tree Service).

Jesse was by this past week, cut away the dead and left what was left.

But even in its twilight years, it shades my soul with soft, precious memories.

The first memory is of the day I put the tree in the ground.

It is maybe two feet tall, matching perfectly the height of a 1-year-old boy standing in a nearby play pen. He looks on quietly as his father whales away with post-hole diggers at an August-baked back yard.

The young boy’s name – a toddler really – is Roger Clay Smith. From that day until even now, it is known as “Roger’s Tree.” Its history is long and meritorious, its old and knarly limbs have  stories to tell ... if they could talk.

I don’t really need to hear ... only sit and look and remember.

The tree was a measuring stick for our second-born. But not for very long. Trees grow faster than boys, but its service didn’t end there.

Not only did the tree outgrow the boy, it also out-lived him.

We lost Roger to phlebitis just three days after he finished his sophomore year at the University of Alabama.

One soft memory is I think he liked his daddy a lot. He was majoring in journalism, was already a good writer. In that final spring, he traveled with the Alabama baseball team, kept the scorebook, and sent back game stories to the Tuscaloosa News. Had his byline on the stories, too.

“By Roger Smith.”

The tree was in its 19th year when Roger left. It was a gorgeous, full-grown shade that cooled family and close friends who gathered often to drink iced tea and just sit and “catch up.”

It was also a cool spot for a daddy who spent hours throwing baseballs to his two young sons. Both sons became really fine hitters, were good baseball players at Saks High School.

The older son went off to Alabama and played football for Bear Bryant. He was on two national championship teams and three SEC championship teams.

I know any college campus teems with pretty young ladies. I also know pretty young ladies love handsome football players. He was both, but his heart never left Saks where, as a 14-year-old, he fell in love with an older lady, 15-year-old Susie Robinson. She was and is a “looker.”

The two were married his senior year, came home, and turned their parents into grandparents ... with three boys.

The two oldest are Alabama graduates. The youngest is still in school at Tuscaloosa.

But the best part is in memories of when they were small, of when we carved pumpkins into Jack-O-Lanterns, grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, hugged a bit along the way and said “I sure do love you.”

There was also some “Don’t you do that again!” And “You’re in trouble now. Get in the house and wait for me.”  

Now the family gathering numbers 10. Two grandsons have taken wives, the other has a “steady.”

But we still grill hamburgers and hog dogs “out back.” We sit and talk and “catch up.” Mainly, the blonde, Susie, and her two daughters-in-law, do most of the “catching up.”

We men talk sports, mostly Alabama football. And how the world is “going to hell in a hand basket.”

Now, sometimes in the twilight, I sit alone, think of passing time and how precious it really is.

I really do love that old maple tree ...


George Smith may be reached at 256-239-5286 or email: gsmith731@gmail.com