The Ohio Buckeye tree planted in our front yard had pride of place out of proportion with its size or grandeur. It was a small, non-descript tree, tucked into the crook of our L-shaped hedge, which never grew to more than a height of a couple of meters. Given how we acted towards it, though, it could have been a tiny thousand year old bonsai or a huge rainforest mahogany.
Our dad planted it from seed. He and my Mom had finished their agricultural degrees at the UofA in Edmonton, and the first solid job offer they got was for my dad to be posted to Fairview College as a agriculture instructor. His degree had specialized in forestry, and so when they arrived and bought their first home, I’m sure he wanted to plant some special flora in our front yard.
He chose and Ohio Buckeye. I’m not sure exactly why. But the tree started growing, slowly at first, and slowly thereafter and always. It was fragile, never having thorns or rough bark to ward off young kids, but instead growing upwards in a leafy fashion, swaying always gently in the prairie breeze. My oldest sister, Cheryl, always seemed to be just a bit taller than the tree – the two of them in a growth race with her just an step ahead. This was all very much unlike the poplar tree in the back that shot up like a weed, continued growing like a tumor, and was now massive and overtaking everything in the back yard, a complete antithesis to the buckeye in the front yard.
I don’t think the buckeye was ever really suited to the cold, northern Alberta climate in which we lived. It might also not have been suited to neighbourhood kids running around it in their games of tag, brushing off its delicate leaves. Or to us playing soccer on the front lawn, or me and my dad throwing the football, though he was always quite safe about not calling me into a pattern that ran too close to the tree.
Today, I’m sure the tree is still there, still slightly taller than I am, still braving all those harsh Fairview winters. Perhaps it’s now prospering without children around to knock it about or hit it with soccer balls, but I might imagine it’s still growing along on its own timeline just as it ever has.