Archive for May, 2015

Long-awaited tree climbing girls!

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

I used to love climbing trees. One of my earliest memories is of our little white house in Gainesville, and the enormous bushes along the front of the house, which were excellent for climbing. I remember that their branches were smooth, sturdy, and easy to climb, and that their deep shade kept both the cinder block wall of the house and the dirt below cool to the touch. Those bushes were like a house to me, outside our house.

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There’s an ancient Greek proverb I appreciate: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

From time to time, Trees for Houston gives away trees to be planted in the public right of way. About ten years ago, our neighbors — Doug and Deanna — accepted and planted a pair of tiny magnolia trees in front of their house. They also planted a tiny loquat tree inside their yard. They moved across town in 2006, but their little trees kept growing. The loquat now bears an enormous crop of fruit, and the magnolias are an excellent size for climbing!

Saturday morning (May 9), our Auntie Emi was in town. We took her next door to pick loquats — the house is currently vacant — but we found almost no fruit on the tree, presumably thanks in part to this guy:

Furry little loquat picker

So we considered the magnolias instead. Several parks — like Baldwin and Glenwood — have ancient live oak trees, and we have helped the girls sit or stand on enormous branches. But at the moment, I’m thinking that our first encounter with the concept of self-climbing into trees is from Kevin Henkes’ Kitten in Kitten’s First Full Moon

Kevin Henke’s “Kitten”

… but I’m not sure, so I asked the girls, “who do we know that climbs trees, and when did we learn about it?”

Cate immediately grins and replies, “from the Bandaid song!”

Sam says, “I learned tree climbing from Cliffhanger…, I mean Clif Bar! He’s a climber, and I want to climb.”

I asked further, “Do we know anyone else who climbs trees?”

Cate looks thoughtful for a longer moment, and then replies slowly, “squirrels.”

Sam concludes, “and sloth-es.”


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Now, back to the magnolias. Although Cate was still in jammies, both girls were prepared with sturdy play shoes, so they went straight to the tree. Both magnolias still have all their low branches, so climbing in is easy.

Cate followed Sam into the tree

Sam in the west magnolia

Cate was initially disappointed that I deemed the tree big enough for just one girl at a time. But fortunately, there are two trees, one for each girl!

Emily spotting Cate in the east magnolia

Cate shouted, “Mom! Look how high I am!”

After they were each satisfied with their first tree, they climbed down and switched.

Emi and Sam


After several minutes, they each concluded that the first tree was better and switched back. Sam ascended more quickly the third climb, swung down and out of the tree, then turned and climbed right back in.




I love this expression of satisfaction on Sam’s face. Moments later, she turned to me and said, “Mom, I’m going to stay in this tree ALL NIGHT!” When I asked, “Really? All night?” Sam confirmed, “all night!” But then a large-ish ant crawled across the branch near her hand, and she decided that she was ready to climb down after all.

At this point, Cate wandered back into view, shirtless. I will need Emily — or Cate! — to chime in and explain why she became half naked, as I was unclear. But she was eager to climb the west tree again.

Emi and Cate discussing attire



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I mentioned Kevin Henkes’ story about the kitten because at one point, Kitten races — trying to reach the great big bowl of milk in the sky — all the way to the top of a tree, where she becomes frightened and unsure how to get down. I can readily imagine having to call the Houston Fire Department to come rescue our child from 20+ feet up a tree. In order to preclude this fate, I have asked the girls not to climb any higher than my head, else I not be able to reach and help them down. For now, they both comply. But I expect higher exploits will soon be at hand!