The other morning I woke and the sun was the brightest I had ever seen. Its yellow beams touched down, glistening through the trees and onto my street, which was still wet from the morning’s dew.
I stepped onto my front porch and the wind was perfectly still, which I interpreted to mean that I should be still, at least for the moment.
I live on a quiet street near the edge of my town. I say this town is mine, not only because I live here; I say this because I grew up here. And though I moved away, part of me never left. Part of me never left the memories or the tragedies that structured my youth. I say this town is mine because when I moved back to her, she welcomed me with opened arms.
My street is quiet. The homes are modest, but they are taken care of. All of the lawns are mowed and the bushes are trimmed.
We have our share of youngsters that are eager to make their mark on the world. They like to howl and they enjoy trouble, but after I properly introduced myself, they have been respectful of my home and property.
We have sidewalks that stretch the block on either side of the street. And on occasion, I see young children riding their bicycles, wearing helmets, and rotating their feet slowly around the pedals as if they just learned how to ride.
We have morning joggers that run before sunrise. We have dog walkers that slowly walk along the sidewalk as their dog sniffs every tree or fire hydrant.
And as for the trees on my block, there are some that stand tall from a strip of grass between the sidewalk and the curb that borders the street.
In fact, there is one across from my home, and I often refer to it as my friend, The Old Tree.
The tree was there before I purchased my home and it was there for the previous homeowner before me. I call the tree old because I assume it is older than any of my oldest living relatives.
And like an old man weathered with age, head balding and fingers gnarled with arthritis, The Old Tree has lost some of its limbs. Some of The Old Tree’s branches have retired like a non-working body part, which birds often perch upon, but they never nest.
The tree is partially green throughout the warmer months. Then in autumn, the leaves change, and in winter, The Old Tree is empty like the others of its kind. I often write about The Old Tree because I see it as a metaphor. I see it as a symbol of perseverance.
Some of my neighbors are waiting for the tree to fall. They say they want to cut it down because, “It’s half dead, and that’s the good half!”
But I say its roots run deep. And that is worthy of respect.
I feel comfortable in my hometown. I am known in my community, but I am respectfully held anonymous and left alone to live my life.
I like that.
I never knew I would see my return to the old neighborhood as a victory. I never thought I would drive passed some of my old hiding places and feel redeemed.
But I do.
I never thought I would see who I was as a testament to who I am now. And like my friend The Old Tree, I have scars. I have weathered storms and I have withstood time. I have beaten the odds against me and I have survived regardless to those that predicted I would fall.
The depth of my roots are a testimony to my strength and sobriety.
And that too is worthy of respect.
Last night, I stood in my backyard on my freshly painted deck and I watched the sunset.
This is my section of the world, and though there are many sections that are bigger, and many are nicer, this place is mine.
I earned this.
And same as I will never let anyone cut down The Old Tree . . .
I will not let anyone take away what I have earned.