Not Just The Trees Grew Up

Not Just The Trees Grew Up


Leonard Zwelling

It’s a nice two-story overpriced house in Potomac, Maryland. We went and visited it today after driving from New Jersey to the DC suburbs to visit our cousins whose youngest son was just married on the Jersey shore.

To get to the house you have to wend through a typical Maryland neighborhood (near Falls Road) off a highway (US270) down a long row of similar houses to a cul-de-sac (Althea Court) at the end of the block. It’s on the corner. It’s in need of better landscape care and a coat of paint and as we peeked over the newly installed fence we could see that the deck attached to the patio where my friends and family had gathered forty-one years ago for my elder son’s bris celebration was in need of replacement. Yes, this was our house from 1977 to 1984. It was our first house. I began being a father there. I ran my marathon from there. I was beginning to become a scientist and become less of a clinician there. My last memory was of throwing a snow shovel on the garbage pile as we drove away on June 1, 1984 and headed to my in-laws in New Jersey and then on to Houston for a new life. I knew I would not need a snow shovel in Houston.

I have been back before and am struck every time by the trees. They were saplings when we planted them in 1977. Now they are huge mighty trunks rising above the roof of the house with a huge crown of leaves in humid summer heat. The trees grew up. So have I.

As I stared at the house from the street I considered from whence I have come and where my family has gone since the day in 1984 we drove off with a four-year old for our new life in a place I never thought I’d inhabit. Texas. Houston, Texas. What would happen?

Everything happened—“the full catastrophe.” Another son and now two daughters-in-law and two grandchildren. I have been saved by the superb medical care in the Texas Medical Center more than a few times and so has all of my family. We’ve been through two homes in Houston, one we actually built, and then there is MD Anderson that has been so good for us and to us. We also have all the friends we have met and all the journeys we have made from South Africa to Hawaii. But nothing is as important as having suffered the winds and rains of life like those trees and grown stronger for the experience, even if a bit more frail as I age. I grew up like the trees.

It is not at all clear to us who owns the house now. We didn’t disturb any occupants although it seemed no one was home. We were a little sad that the house needed paint and the lawn needed mowing. We were thrilled that the house still stood and the trees had grown even stronger than they were at our last visit many years ago.

It is not often that one can stare back into the past with such clarity and then roll forward to the present all in one instant. This was one of them. The trees had grown up. Me, too.

2 thoughts on “Not Just The Trees Grew Up”

  1. What a wonderful reflection on life!
    I too have had similar experiences of returning to earlier homes to see the trees SO much taller now. We are surrounded by a forest at our family home in Maine, and last week I walked past one of my favorite Red Oaks and thought: not only have you grown in my lifetime but you will be here to watch over generations to come. I am not sure where I will be when this gig of life is over.

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