Under the Cherry Tree

I don’t know my brother. I don’t mean that I don’t know when he was born or what he does for a living or other things like that. I don’t know my brother the person. This has, at times, made me sad. I have wondered what I could do to make things better and periodically, I have tried to do them. But still, I don’t know my brother.

I thought about this a lot on Christmas Day. The nephew is trying to know my brother, and I try to relay information to him that is factual, not colored by opinion. I know, though, that just by the facts that I choose to tell the nephew, I am coloring the picture of my brother much as an artist fills in the detail in a drawing. I wonder if I am including the good things that I know about him, things that the nephew can process as he draws his own conclusions. That is why I thought I’d share my memories of what happened under the cherry tree.

We moved into the house where my father still lives in November of 1959. I was four. My brother was fifteen. He was my hero, my knight in shining armor. My brother and his friends would hang with their cars in the the driveway and under the cherry tree that pretty much covered the front yard. Sometimes, I got to hang with them.

One of the guys my brother used to hang out with, Jack, goes to the daughter’s church. He has no hair on top and a pretty full gray beard. His smile hasn’t changed over the years, though. Jack told the daughter that when I was small, he used to call me Beckums. I do not remember this. What I do remember is that he used to come over and hang with my brother in the front yard, under the cherry tree.

My brother joined the Air Force when I was seven, so the early memories I have of him are flashes, really. Nothing big. But seeing Jack’s face reminded me of the game my brother and his friends used to play, swinging me in their arms up into the arms of the cherry tree. Probably they just wanted me out of their way. Still, they made a game of it. I couldn’t get up in the tree by myself. I don’t know how big it was, really, but in my memory, three or four adults would have had to stretch their joined arms all the way out to form a circle around its trunk. And none of its branches were low. I felt big when I sat up in it. And I really do remember giggling when they swung me up, giggling when they made me say please and then pretty please to get down. I even remember giggling when they tried to get me to eat the wormy cherries, telling me that the worms actually made them sweeter. I’m not sure I didn’t fall for that one at least once, although I like to think that the smiling young men I remember would have stopped me before the game got that far. It was all sort of a teasing thing, and I was so pleased to be allowed into my brother’s presence that I didn’t mind it at all.

I don’t know why things changed after that. It’s possible that the age difference between my brother and me was just too great for us to overcome. He was pretty much out of the house by the time I hit third grade Besides, I have noticed in other families besides my own that it’s up to the “womenfolk” to keep in touch with what’s happening. The women with whom my brother surrounded himself after leaving home didn’t feel the urge to keep up on the news, and after a while it became harder and harder to communicate. Sadly, we became relative strangers. He has three children, and I can’t say that I know them, either. I know this kind of thing happens, but the knowing doesn’t make it any easier to explain.

Still…we do exchange Christmas cards and birthday cards. We call on holidays. The door is open. Which is why I thought I would write down the memories I have of my brother and his friends. I don’t know what he thinks of when he thinks of me, but maybe in his mind’s eye, he still sees the little girl that he and his friends swung up to sit in the cherry tree. And even if he doesn’t, maybe I should tell him what I remember.

Maybe his knowing that I have pleasant memories of him would make the door between us swing open a little more often.


2 Responses to “Under the Cherry Tree”

  1. 1 writeathome December 29, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    I agree with the last line, Becky. Have you ever considered sharing this memory with him in the form of a letter?

  2. 2 Becky December 29, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    Actually, I didn’t think of it until I wrote this, Carol, but that’s the current plan. I am sure that I will blog should my brother respond at all. Hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas.

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