The Spring sun shined down the branches of this old emaciated yet still vital tree. As I sit on my second story balcony, camouflaged from the pedestrians and street cars below, Spring arrived.
Warmth radiates from the branch tips down the trunk feeding roots. It’s been here a longtime. I breath it all in. This breath of renewal suddenly sparks a distant, long forgotten memory.
It has been fifty years since I sat, becoming apart of a tree over months. I know this feeling. Then I sat ten feet above the bustling traffic and sidewalk on Myrtle Avenue in Monrovia, California.
Please don’t believe that I’m comparing Heidelberg to Monrovia. God no. The scene. The emotion; that, solemn feeling, alone, friendless, I hover in the tree. A voyeur relying on the stability of old, established roots. Roots I never had.
I had no power over the situation. My father had lost his lathe machine job because America had lost its war with Vietnam. Huey helicopter parts no longer in demand, we had to sell the one house that he ever owned. A green lawn, pool in the back, a Levittown equivalent in suburban Los Angeles. Glendora. Selling beat being foreclosed and now Monrovia.
My step-brother lived down Altern Street with his third wife. He saw a for rent sign on the parched, weed covered parcel.
As my parents sought protection in bankruptcy court, I found protection sitting on a few 2×4 nailed together like a platform on a sturdy branch above the wall above Myrtle Avenue like the balcony I’m sitting on above Berlinerstraße.
We had moved from the one place where I had made friendships. I was in a neighborhood. Played. Fought. For nearly three years we lived in Glendora – the longest stay in one place in my life (and would be for a few more years to come).
Fifty years. These feelings return as easily as proverbially getting back on a bicycle. It brought back the isolation. The despair that I felt as a boy given away from his mother and saddled up on the caisson that my father so loved (and never quite adjusted after retirement).
Moving base to base, town to town. Like a ghost I am in strangers childhood and grade school photographs. They wonder “what was his name?”
It was a hot summer in 1970. I sat up in that tree. I knew the road stretched far in either direction. I pondered if it ended. I wanted to go in one direction or the other just to find something. Anything. I realize now the road, roads are my friend.
Here I am realizing five decades later how I’ve struggled with each long hour, always feeling that I’m not apart. I am floating above watching, listening to the roar of white noise and the laughter and conversations of friends.
A different language. A different country. A different continent. But, even though I have made it full circle back to where I was born, the emptiness returns. I could blame the coronavirus lockdown but I would fool myself yet again.
It is simply the hand that the dealer dealt. I will breath with the trees somewhere between earth and the clouds until I see the end of this road.