Share Button

The Tree

When Ronald was born, his parents planted a tree for him. It was only a seedling, hardly bigger than Ronald himself.

Each day the baby grew a little bigger. But through the winter months the tiny tree slept. With the spring, though, it burst forth in a garland of green leaves.

One summer day Ronald's mother brought him out into the field behind the house. While she was busy picking flowers, the baby crawled away toward his tree. He sat in the grass next to the young tree and reached up to the leaves and laughed. Just then there was a rustling sound in the grass. Ronald looked down and smiled. A snake was moving toward him. He reached out his hand to touch it. He did not know the danger. The snake raised its head to strike. Sunlight flashed on its poisonous fangs.

Suddenly -- was it the wind? -- a branch of the tree dipped downward. The snake's head was caught in a fork of the branch. Swiftly the branch snapped up again and flung the snake away.

As Ronald grew older, he began to care for his tree. He watered it often and fed it manure from the barn. And the tree grew strong. Soon it was taller than Ronald.

In the afternoons, Ronald would bring his books to study beneath the tree. How well the tree shaded him. As the sun moved across the sky, the branches of the tree twisted and turned to shield him from the sun's rays. And when there was a sudden shower, an umbrella of leaves always protected him.

But how odd it was when a stranger sat beneath the tree. When the sun beamed down, the branches parted and gave the stranger no shade at all. And when it rained, the leaves tilted to dump the raindrops on the stranger's head.

Ronald was a young man now. One day he brought a young woman to the tree. Beneath its spreading branches they had a picnic. In the days that followed, they returned there often. Ronald carved a heart on the trunk of the tree and placed his name and hers inside it. But after Ronald left, the tree knit its bark together and erased the girl's name. Its heart had room for only one love.

Weeks and months went by. Ronald was too busy to visit the tree. Although there was plenty of rain, its branches drooped and its leaves wilted. But then one day Ronald returned. He threw himself down on the ground beneath the tree and wept. Day after day he returned to the tree. He spent long hours there, staring out into the field. And the tree grew strong again.

Years went by, and Ronald grew old. The tree was a giant now. It lived only for Ronald. It saved its shade for him and no other.

When Ronald died, his body was buried beneath his tree. The tree grieved for him. It wept great tears of sap. Its leaves drooped and shriveled, and its strength ebbed away. The tree was dying.

But while Ronald's body was buried in the ground, his soul had gone to heaven. The Angel at the Gates of Heaven welcomed Ronald.

"Can my tree enter with me?" he asked.

When the Angel checked the Book of Life, he shook his head. "I'm sorry," he said. "He cared only for you and was cruel to all others."

Ronald pleaded with the Council of Angels. But the answer was still no.

One day, in the midst of a thunderstorm, a traveler was caught out in the field. He ran toward the dying tree to take shelter. But just before he reached the tree, a bolt of lightning lashed down from the sky. Just as it was about to strike the man, the tree reached out with its last strength and swept in the lightning bolt. The hot lightning seared down the trunk of the tree and blackened it. The fires burned to its heart, and it died.

Suddenly the skies cleared, and a bright light shone down on the blackened tree. The light blinded the traveler for a moment. When he looked again, the tree was gone.

At that moment, up in heaven, Ronald was sitting once more beneath his tree.








©1973, 2013 The Silversteins