Trees. There is a tree every four feet. Stands of pine span for acres, and every once in a while, a deciduous tree — that is one that sheds its leaves every year — bursts through the holiday green like a gay uncle during Thanksgiving dinner. We have every kind of tree — and I have climbed them all. Except for white birch.
I might have been nine or ten, but more likely six or seven, my family crammed into a small compact and dad drove us to a relative’s house four hours away. The manicured lawn presented two climbing targets: a weeping willow and a birch tree, which I mistakenly called a bitch tree. I had climbed the willow before. That left the white birch.
My shoes slipped. The papery bark peeled off where my hands held onto the eight-inch trunk. I shimmied. I ran at it. I even jumped up to catch a lower branch — all efforts failed to get up that tree. Even as I walked away, I looked back and tried to scout a yet-to-be-revealed-to-me way up the white birch.
My mother caught me staring at it through the window. “What is wrong with your eye?”
My left eye had swollen to the size of a baseball — except baseballs are not red. Later, I explained to the Doctor, “I tried to climb the white bitch.”
“You’re allergic,” the Doctor said. “Stay away from White Bitches.”