Growing up, there was a huge tree in the park next to my house. I loved that tree so much that even when it got stinky every fall and all the other kids played far away from it, I didn’t — to my family’s dismay.
When I would go on the swings at that park with my sister, I remember desperately wanting to swing high enough to touch the leaves of this tree. I went out every day and swung on those swings, from the moment after breakfast until my mom called me home for dinner. I swung so high that I thought if I reached out just far enough, at just the right moment, I would be able to reach those leaves. I can’t imagine how odd I must have looked to the other kids, but that was the last thing on my mind.
It was a maidenhair tree, otherwise known as a ginkgo tree, and it was the biggest tree in my neighborhood (or the world, to me as a child).
I don’t remember a single moment of my early life when it was not there for me. When I scraped up my hands and knees after a scooter mishap sent me tumbling, it was there. When my mom sent me to get eggs from the grocery store across from the park, it was there. After I bought the eggs, the store owner would always sneak me my favorite ice cream, and I would run over to the park, sit next to the trunk of the tree, under its shade, and secretly scarf down the icy treat. I can’t even count the number of times I dripped ice cream all over it. I liked to think I was sharing.
It was even there when I got mad at my mom for the first time. She threw away my favorite stuffed animal. I ran out of the house and straight to this tree, laid down, tears and snot running down the sides of my face, and fell asleep to the sun peaking between its leaves. I knew I was in a lot of trouble when I woke up to my parents looking for me. From that day forward, the tree became my crying buddy.
On the last day before we moved out of that neighborhood, I sneaked over to this tree, gave it a big hug, and looked around at the park and those swings one last time. I had spent my life thus far under the protection of its leaves, and I was sad to go. But I knew it was time to branch out.
To my favorite maidenhair tree, the biggest maidenhair in the world, thank you for always being there for me (not that you really had a choice). I am not sure if you’re even there anymore, but I like to think that you’re still standing tall, providing shade and a branch to lean on to all the neighborhood kids.
This column is a regular feature of the Tribune's monthly WAVE page. Do Yeon Kim is a Detroit Lakes High School graduate who is now a college student at Harvard.