I love the smell of pine trees. We had eleven Norway pines in the yard of my childhood home. They were great for my two brothers and me to climb. They caused an awful lot of work for Mom who scrubbed to remove the sap from our clothing. Our cat, Scamper, loved the pines too. Once Mom had to climb fifteen feet up one of the Norways because we kids thought the cat was stuck to sap. That day, pinecones rattled from their branches to the cushiony needle bed below to coincide with the anger coming from our mom. And the cat…was just up there to get away from us kids.
All of us collected pine cones. Mom would give them to anyone who wanted them – especially to her favorite gardening place on the way to the Old Cedar bridges. Sometimes she’d barter pine cones in exchange for geraniums.
My maiden name is Trewartha. It’s a common name in Cornwall, England and pronounced “Tra-war-“th”-“ah” with the “tha” said all at once. “By Tre, Pol or Penn you shall know your Cornishmen,” so the saying goes. It’s a bit like having the last name of Johnson or Anderson here in Minnesota. Growing up, teachers slaughtered its pronunciation. Tree-wath-a, Tree-wart-ha. My third grade teacher, Mr. Porter, with a wink, nicknamed me “Tree.” To this day, it makes me smile.
I love birch trees as well. I think because they don’t shed nearly as much as pine trees do. One need rake but once a year. We had one on our property on Dana Drive in Burnsville. That tree provided the shade we needed on our front lawn. It also served as a perfect backdrop for taking pictures of memorable moments – first days of school, Easter outfits and birthdays.
Two weeks ago, we bought two trees for our present home. A river birch and a paper birch. They are good-sized and I can’t wait to watch them grow.
We have a row of birch trees on our farm property in Ottertail County. They are magnificent and I love to watch them be swayed by the invisible wind.
As I write this post, an aunt I love has been moved into hospice. I know she and her children are reeling from the news and hate it as much as I do. Her mind is as sharp as mine. It’s her body that’s working against her. To add to the news, my aunt cannot have visitors as she is highly susceptible to infection.
So here, in this space, I will express my thoughts in the best way I know how.
No doubt about it, life is hard. It’s not always a philosophic “if/then” equation. If I pray this, God will do that. The “ifs” sometimes feel like minus signs follow them rather than an equal sign. And that is when we who are believers in a triune God lean into that which we cannot see — faith. I don’t have answers as to the “whys” of suffering. I do believe God’s Word and trust Him when He says:
“I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.
For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.” Isaiah 55: 9 (The Message)
I also love this verse in James 1. “There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle.” (The Message)
I believe this with my whole heart and thus, I trust in the all-seeing, all-knowing One. My prayer is that my aunt, her sweet children and grandchildren, will take comfort as well.
One of God’s gifts to us is He created humans with the ability to remember. Proverbs 10:7 says “The memory of the righteous shall be a blessing.” I hold memories of visiting my aunt and uncle and their family in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin and those memories of wonderful people really do bless. They are inheritances; hand-me-downs of substance. My aunt is a quilter. I had no idea to what degree until today. She’s made more than fifty quilts. For friends, for family members. Square by square she has sewn pieces of fabric together to make bed coverings for so many. According to her daughter Karen she has made quilts for Beanie babies, American Girl dolls, newborns…even kittens. The memories of good people like my aunt are like her quilts – heirlooms to treasure and hold onto. They are people to whom you look up to for having “run the race” that Paul talks about in Second Timothy 4:7.
So for me, in honor of my aunt, the tree that truly is my favorite is the family tree.
My grandparents, Lelace and William Trewartha had six children. First a daughter, then four sons and years later another daughter completed the family.
My aunt married the youngest son. They had three great kids. I learned via a text message this week that my aunt and uncle invited my cousin Jacki to live with them and their kids who, at the time, were between the ages of six and one. In the mid-sixties work was hard to come by in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and when Jacki found a job in Sun Prairie, my aunt and uncle put out the “Welcome” mat. Jacki lived with them for six months until a job became available in her hometown.
Our families resembled one another’s. Both had three children – two sons and a daughter. Both loved dogs. Our dog, Prancer, birthed three puppies. On a visit to our home in Bloomington, they took the blond female and named her Princess. Both families loved to camp. Their daughter Karen and I played “house” in our camper when we’d visit them.
My best memory of my aunt, though, is her talent in the food and gardening category. She made me — a person who hated potato salad, into a person who would only eat one kind. Hers.
She turned lasagna into a main course torte. No canned Prego for her. We’re talking layers of cheese, Italian sausage, noodles, cheese, noodles, tomatoes, noodles, cheese, oregano and noodles piled so tall that your slice leaned like the place in Pisa. There was a piece of Italy in every bite.
Her backyard. I don’t remember a tether ball, like ours had. She had something just as good. Food. I can see her cornstalks and tomato plants and rows of carefully tended vegetables.
Another surprise when you stayed at her house. Being the disciplined person she was and still is, there was no snacking between meals. Food was eaten around a table, three times a day. Case dismissed.
One not-so-good memory about her, though. She eats fish Jell-O. Intentionally.
She actually goes out to fish Jell-O suppers where other crazy people intentionally eat fish that has been smoked then rehydrated in water and lye — yes, we’re talking the stuff that takes car oil off of your driveway. Some people might call what she eats lutefisk, but seriously, if it wiggles and jiggles like Jell-O, it must be Jell-O. And awful-tasting blobs of gelatin at that. If you don’t know what lutefisk is, here’s a clip from Andrew Zimmern’s show for you to get my meaning. I feel about lutefisk like my dad did about girls getting their ears pierced. “If God had wanted people to have pierced ears, He’d have made them that way.” Of course I never did agree with my dad about this subject. But here’s an emphatic emphasis on the word “no.” There’ll be no changing my mind about lutefisk.
Except, maybe that’s why she still does not have a gray hair on her head. Even into her seventies.
I am so glad God put me into the family tree He did. So many beautiful and kind people are in it. I’m the richer for knowing my aunt. As a child, I knew her as someone who could do many things I could not. As an adult, she became a friend. And, like my mom, she had to say good-bye to her husband much earlier than she wanted to.
No doubt about it. My heart will always smile as I think about the beautiful person who is part of our family tree and lives on Klubertanz Drive.