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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Trees (12/05/05)

TITLE: Mum's Home Among the Gum Trees
By Karen Ward
12/12/05


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The potholed dirt driveway went on forever. Entranced by the scenery and the nostalgic purpose of my visit, I leaned forward, anticipating my first glimpse of the house.

I passed a fence that no longer held a gate. Weather beaten logs held up four strands of fencing wire, some of the posts were at odd angles, but for the most part it remained intact.

The ditches either side of the dirt driveway were deep enough that water would gather in them were it not so dry, and the dirt was a rich caramel colour, not black like our soil at home.

As we rounded a bend, the object of my curiosity revealed itself between the gum trees. Those first glimpses are imbedded in my memory.

Upon reaching the house, I stood in front of the car and imagined my grandparents seated on the verandah. My grandfather, sitting in his rocking chair, looking out at the trees, keen eyes catching all movements. My grandmother, shelling peas, metal bucket beside her and pot in her lap. The sounds then would have been similar to those I was now hearing. Crickets, or were they cicadas? Born and bread in the city, I really wasnít sure - a rising chirping, whatever it was, clearly emanating from the gum trees surrounding us. The drone of a fly, louder as it neared my head, then fading away.

My mother had told me so many stories of this, the home she had grown up in. Her first horse. The time her cousin had set fire to the barn. Snakes in the house, redbacks in the outhouse. The memories came alive for me as I set foot for the first time on the property that was my heritage, and now my inheritance.

My boots clumped and the old floorboards creaked, as I walked around the verandah. To the side of the house, many plum trees still remained. Some looked ready to harvest, and I looked forward to that tangy taste of heaven.

At the back of the house stood the clothesline. It looked pretty much the same as the fence Iíd seen on the way in, except that the posts were taller and had been painted red. The angle of the posts was interesting, I wasnít sure it would continue to stand if it were used for its original purpose.

I looked beyond the back yard to spy two motley looking sheep nervously eyeing a visiting kangaroo.

The kangaroo was eyeing me. I looked it in the eye, and after staring back long enough to make sure I knew it was moving because it wanted to, and not because it was scared of me, it bounded away, clearing the fence in one easy bound.

My motherís tree house must be close. She said it was out by the clothesline. I looked up into the trees nearby. Would there be any sign? Or had all traces of my motherís childish dreams disappeared?

A kookaburra mocked my search, laughing with abandon at the folly of hope. I spied him in the gum tree, though I still saw no sign of my motherís treehouse.

My mother had been a dreamer. She was well suited to solitude. She had made the treehouse so that she could escape from her brothers and her chores without being out of earshot in case her mother needed her. I couldnít imagine needing to escape from this. The house itself seemed to me like the ultimate escape.

It occurred to me then that my mother had not wanted her treehouse to be found. Her brothers must have searched for it to tease her. It was unlikely that I would come across it so many years later just by looking up. Later, I would start climbing trees.

I wanted to sit in her tree.

I desperately needed the connection with her, needed to feel her presence in that, her favourite place. Perhaps then, I could finally break down the walls that I had so carefully erected after her death. I needed to find that tree so that I could go back to living.


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This article has been read 974 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Steve Clark12/12/05
The subtle way you wove the story kept me off guard until the end and the final paragraph just took my legs out from under me. Wow! Very skilled craftsmanship.
Suzanne R12/13/05
Your descriptions were just beautiful. The last couple of paragraphs were thought-provoking and solemn. Throughout the first few paragraphs, I just soaked up the descriptions.

I wonder if non-Australian readers will be familiar with the song 'Give me a home among the gum trees, with lots of plum trees, a sheep or two and a kangaroo, a clothesline out the back, verandah out the front and an old rocking chair!'

You've tied it in just beautifully to your piece. Well done.
Sandra Petersen 12/13/05
Like Suzanne I just soaked up the descriptions throughout the beginning of your article. I could see in my mind the "rich caramel color" of the dirt and the leaning clothesline.
Thanks, Suzanne, for letting us non-Australians know that there is a song that has these lyrics!
Makes the piece even more interesting!
Your final thoughts, that sometimes we need to search for something, anything, to connect with a deceased loved one, are well-spoken.
Thank you for sharing this poignant article! May it bring healing!
Beth Muehlhausen12/13/05
Nostalgic and tender. Good job saving the punch line for the end!
Julianne Jones12/14/05
I loved this - not just because it was a nostalgic reminder of 'home' - but also because it was so descriptive and well-written and inspiring. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
P.S. Suz has mentioned the song, but how many others would know that 'redbacks' are spiders (nasty ones at that!).
Well done.
Jan Ackerson 12/16/05
I love the mood here, even though I can't put a label on it. It's tender, and bittersweet, and a little bit sad, and a lot loving. And as a non-Aussie, I love the setting, and learning vicariously about your world. Lovely.
James Clem 12/16/05
LOL. I stumbled over the redbacks. But seeing the kangaroo was a jolt! I realized I wasn't where I thought I was. : - )

I've never come across a stray kangaroo. And the kookaburra - okay, I still don't know what that is (bird?) These elements were a distraction, but a pleasant one. They may have dampened the mood you were setting. The last line was masterful - and hinted that there is so much more to this story.
Denise Stanford12/16/05
What a rippa, a bonza story Mate!
The intro to a bigger story for sure! Not only did you conjure the setting, but you stirred the need so well, good onya!
Sally Hanan12/17/05
It's obvious you took care with this piece, and the sublety of each emotion seems mute but packs a punch.
Pat Guy 12/18/05
'I wanted to sit in her tree.

I desperately needed the connection with her, needed to feel her presence in that, her favourite place. Perhaps then, I could finally break down the walls that I had so carefully erected after her death. I needed to find that tree so that I could go back to living.' Beautiful! So well written! A joy to read. I can so identify with needing that tree-house as I was growing up! :)