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A Digression: Jane Lawton, Tree Hugger

29 November 2012

Some of you may remember that my mother, Jane Lawton, passed away five years ago today.

[Newcomers, many apologies – a few times a year I subject you to an essay that includes a few memories of my mother. If you want to catch up, previous posts include The Lady Loved Pink, Begin Again, Live Like You Mean It, and Beautiful Things, Mothers. But do feel free to go somewhere else for your bloggy reading today. Catherine has an important style question for you, while Ann is giving away yarn. And Franklin always makes me glad to be a knitter.]

I missed Mom a lot last night, as I sat in bed with the fabulous Alexandra Jane and wondered what Mom would have thought of her namesake. [Answer: she would have adored her, especially Alex’s first joke — the funny deep growl she makes because she knows we’ll laugh at it.]

Jane Colorado Tree

Here’s Mom in Colorado with a very old tree.

It’s hard to have this baby and know that she’ll never know my mother. I wish there were a way to capture Mom’s essence for Alex, but there isn’t. There are just stories. Last night, I worried that I couldn’t remember enough about Mom. With every day that goes by, a little more of a person who has died slips away. One just has to hope to hold on to enough of them to be able to honor their memory.

So the story I’m remembering today is about the tree in the front yard of the house in which I grew up. It was a nice tree, a cherry tree, that blossomed each spring the way the ones down on the mall do. And, when I was a kid, I liked to sit in the fork of the tree and read. It was outside, it offered a nice view, it was a sort of whimsical thing to do, and it gave me a little privacy.

Here’s a beauty shot of me with the tree. I’m probably 11 or 12. Just one in a long series of bad haircuts. But, hey, the tree looks great. And so does my Swatch!

Technically, the tree belonged to the Town of Chevy Chase, where we lived. And one day some guys from the town tried to cut it down.

I’m not blaming them, you understand; according to them, the tree was diseased and they had to get rid of it. They just had a job to do, etc. I’m sure they successfully cut down a few trees that day and saved the town from whatever blight those trees had. Unfortunately for them, they came across Jane Lawton next.

Here I am, again about 12, with my grandmother, Mom, and my sister, Stephanie. This is likely Easter, because I have been forced into a floral suit. As you can see, I’m still trying to figure out a good hair style.

She didn’t want the tree cut down, so she did what any rational woman would do: she brought her daughter, age 6 or 7, out to the tree and had her sit in it until the men went away.

“This is my daughter’s tree,” she explained (as I remember it). “She loves this tree. You aren’t cutting it down.”

There are a lot of photos of us in front of the tree, as if Mom is celebrating her victory over arbor-oppressors. Here are (L-R) Stephanie, Mom, and me. This time, Stephanie is 12, and I am 19 and love the band Pixies.

They left eventually. The tree lived through whatever was ailing it, and the last time I checked was still in the yard, although the house doesn’t belong to us any more. And, as those of you who have met my mother might have guessed, she ended up being friends with one of the men later on. Because she liked everyone, and Mark was a pretty nice guy. Heck, he didn’t cut down the tree.

Here’s the fun thing about this story: Alex absolutely loves trees right now. Especially while the leaves were changing, she would just stare and stare at them. The day I brought her a leaf was a high point in both of our lives. And, a couple of weeks ago, when Mr. Trask took her to Christ Church Meadow and let her touch some trees, he says she looked at him like he had introduced her to The Beatles, or Sting, or whoever it is the kids are listening to these days. I got to come along on the next tree-hugging excursion, when we let her sit in her first tree.

“The tree! It’s all around me!”

People, you would have thought she had died and gone to heaven. It was the exact opposite of the swimming lessons debacle. She didn’t even mind wearing the fuzzy suit, for a little while. And as I took this photo of her sitting in the tree, I suddenly remembered my reading tree, and the day Mom and I saved it.

So last night I told Alex the story of how Mom outwitted the tree surgeons. And maybe someday she’ll remember Mom, when she’s sitting in a tree with flowers all around her. For today, that’s more than enough.

Thanks again, Mom.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. 29 November 2012 1:04 pm

    Such a beautiful story! My Mom is my closest friend. She is in another state and we don’t see each other enough (but talk daily). This reminds me that I am fortunate –and that I should go home for Christmas.

  2. consuelala permalink
    29 November 2012 2:50 pm

    The photos are very precious.

  3. Joan Kleinman permalink
    30 November 2012 12:56 am

    Everyone who ever met Jane had her life changed that day, including anyone who dared to cut down a tree. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story — and for sharing her with us. Her fan club misses her every single day but we know she is watching and smiling on you and Alex and Mr. Trask.

    • Kathleen permalink*
      30 November 2012 8:16 am

      Thank you, thank you, Joan! So glad you’re part of the “fan club.”

  4. Rosemary shipe McBee permalink
    30 November 2012 3:34 pm

    Hi Kathleen – I do so miss your mom too! Barely enjoyed going to our Ada high 50-th- cab barely get the number off my tongue.
    Reunion in sept because I remember how jane loved everyone and was friends with everyone
    And when we would go places atOU I could
    Hardly get a word in for her speaking to everyone we ran in to! Ioved the tree story and your daughter is precious. !
    Much love
    Rosemary

    • Kathleen permalink*
      2 December 2012 4:34 am

      Thank you so much, Rosemary! I remember going to a reunion with Mom and watching her talk and talk and talk. The woman could work a room, couldn’t she?

  5. Kathryn Kelly permalink
    2 December 2012 12:04 pm

    That memory is sooooo precious. And…..your daughter is gorgeous and lively. Thanks for sharing.
    On another note: The ‘Modern Family’ TV show episode this week was about Cam sitting in a tree in order to save it.
    Have a great day.

  6. 4 December 2012 4:57 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this story! Every time you tell a story like this, you will remember even more, and remember other things, details that might not come to mind right now, and they’ll be waiting there for you to share with wee Alex when the time comes.

    Also? Alex in a tree. Very wonderful.

  7. Judy Parkins permalink
    7 April 2013 7:58 am

    Such a sweet memory. Your mom was very special and would adore Alex. She will know her through you – a great mom, daughter, and friend.

  8. Steph permalink
    12 August 2013 12:29 pm

    Am as it turns out very grateful you saved that tree, since was later my reading tree and also my elaborate-games-involving-Troll-dolls-tree and my sit-in-the-tree-and-startle-your-friends-when-they-come-up-the-walk-tree, etc. I also remember playing on the low branch while you did gymnastics on the high branch back when they matched up to our heights ;). Though it did also attack me once, resulting in much crying and a gift of a small Mayflower Moving Truck toy from some delivery guys who happened to be there to see it. Anyway, know am reading this late, but love how much Alex likes trees.

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