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Under the spreading maple tree

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By Kelly Dolejsi

I was 6 or 7-years-old, sitting cross-legged in the grass in front of the duplex home my parents shared with my grandmother. I was puncturing helicopters with my fingernails.

It might not sound like much, but I remember this better than my first communion, my first boyfriend or my first day at any job I’ve ever had, maybe because this was the first day I did something unlike myself, the first time I had enough sense of self to experience such a sensation. Or maybe because of the worms.

Back then, we lived in Kenmore, N.Y., a place where I liked living because the community pools had water slides and there was a Dairy Queen so close I could walk to it, although not by myself because I wasn’t allowed to cross Elmwood Avenue without an adult.

Like every house on the street, ours was beautified by a large suburban maple tree growing beside the curb, shading the sidewalk and most of our front yard. Every year, it released great branch loads of what we called “helicopters,” or what some people call “whirlybirds,” in an effort to entertain children.

I played under this maple tree all the time. I fantasized vainly about climbing it, about wrapping my arms and legs around its trunk like a koala and pulling myself up into the cloud of leaves.


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