Tuesday, May 31, 2016

On Dying Trees, Retiring Chefs, and Graduating Daughters

As I write this, I’m watching history being cut down. A large maple tree, which has probably stood in the middle of my back yard as long as this house has stood on our street, is being removed. The upper branches, still bright with new, green leaves, floating to the ground like blades of grass blown in the wind. The larger branches dropped, one by one, onto the plantings below.

And the main trunk, which from the outside still looked strong and sturdy, sawn in half and brought down with a *thud* that shook the whole house.

Problem is, that trunk was half dead. Full of rotting wood that crumbled at the touch.

This tree, the one that turned golden-orange in the fall and had been the source of many a jumping pile when my girls were younger, the one that held memories of high-soaring branches against winter skies, the one surrounded by hostas planted by previous owners, had become a hazard.

Over the weekend my husband wanted proof. He needed to know for sure that, should a violent storm suddenly blow in, the tree was a threat to our home. He took a pitchfork and stabbed at the bark a little. And that’s all it took. The bark pulled away, revealing more and more rotting wood underneath the surface.

As much as we didn’t want to admit it, the tree needed to go.


I just learned that one of our favorite restaurants closed over the weekend. It was a tiny French restaurant that we had discovered several years ago in a neighboring town.

It was an unassuming place—cheesy décor, twinkling lights, and oilcloth covering the tables—with the most amazing food that has ever crossed my lips. The first time B and I ate there (probably for an anniversary or a special night out), we asked the waiter what we should order. We were new to French bistro food, and we weren’t sure whether we’d like it or not.

We shouldn’t have worried.

The waiter told us to order the short rib ravioli—it was one of the chef’s specialties—so we did. And when it came to the table we simply sat and drank in the rich scent with silly smiles on our faces. The fontina cheese and short rib meat combined with the deep, dark sherry sauce, simply deserved to be savored like a fine French wine.

Thus began years of family celebrations at that little French place with the famous chef who had cooked for the likes of Frank Sinatra at the Beverly Hills Hotel years before and many other famous people in France long before that.

But this place was his swan song. His retirement. His couronnement.

And it had become like home to us. A comfort. A warm meal on a winter’s night.

Now it’s gone, suddenly pulled away, memories never again to be made there.


Over the weekend our youngest graduated from high school.

[Note: for some reason, I resist calling her my “baby,” even though she technically is. But I don’t like calling her that because she is not a baby, and I don’t want her to act like one. She happens to be the youngest in the line of three, eighteen years old, but she is not my “baby” any longer. Am I weird for thinking that way? Probably.]

So Julia graduated. And we celebrated.

Family drove and flew in from across the country. Friends came to a party we threw on Sunday. Blue and orange balloons (for her NEW school) floated across a perfect early-summer sky.

Our weekend was grand and fun (and also exhausting), but it was also another closing of the books as we will never again have a child in school here. The empty nest is looming.

At various parties we bumped into families and teachers from elementary and middle school days, and we reminisced about “back then.” We talked about how the kids have grown and where they are headed next.

Some, I know, would like to hold on to those “good old” days when everything seemed simpler and sweeter and more serene. But that’s not possible.

Time marches on. Trees die. Favorite chefs retire. And our children move on.

Yet our hearts are forever tied to those memories, those places, those experiences.

For me, time around that tree, over incredible meals, and with our wonderful children are times when I have laughed and dreamed and become just a little richer for the lives that have touched mine.

Today, I’ll admit, I’m struggling just a little with putting the past behind me. But I know the days ahead will be just fine—with or without that tree in our back yard; with or without the amazing food that we occasionally got to enjoy; with or without my children running through my house—because I know that my life is more than the past. I have been promised a future.

Today, despite some changes I don't necessarily like, I can look back and be grateful.


  1. Well said Shelly. The future is looming within my house as well.

  2. What a beautiful post. Yes, time marches on, and we must move forward. I am proud of all three of your girls. They are strong ladies, like their mama. I am anxious to see where life takes them, and anxious to see what God has for you to do my sweet friend. I know God will use you for His glory and He will bless you for your obedience. Enjoy the day :0!

  3. So thoughtful. So sweet/bittersweet. So well said.
    Can't wait to hear about the new trees/food/adventures with adult children.
    Also, love that verse... it's one of Lonnie's favorites.
    xo colette

  4. Bittersweet for sure. I was reminded of my own special tree that had to come down some years ago, just after my daughter moved away from home. It was a stark reminder that stays the same.

  5. P.S. As it happens, ours was a maple tree, as well. I wrote about it and blogged about it and that seemed to help somewhat, but I still miss that tree.