by Florence W. Deems

Over the next few years, every chance I got to go to Gram's. I'd take it. I'd be sure to make some time to climb up in that big old white oak story tree and talk with it. It told me an awful lot about the history of the Native Americans who used to live in this area and what happened when the whites took over and how they did it. I learned a lot about what the Native Americans taught to their kids, too.

Sometimes for a writing assignment, I'd write up one of the old tree's stories and turn it in to my teachers. They were always amazed at how good my stories were. Wonder what they would have said if they'd known where my inspirations really came from.

My own little tree kept growing and growing and it's much bigger now. It appreciates all the stories I've brought back for it from its parent tree. Dad and I've had to take away more and more bricks as the little tree grew.

Then one day, shortly after my seventeenth birthday in the spring, Dad gets a phone call. After he hangs up, I see him go outside in search of Mom who's pruning the roses. They talk together for a few minutes. Then they hug each other and just stand there holding onto each other. They sure don't look very happy. Wondering what's happened, I meet them at the kitchen door.

"Oh, Charlie!" Mom says and I see that she and Dad are crying! "Gram died today! One of the neighbors found her. Pack some clothes for a few days, hon. We'll be leaving as soon as we're ready."

"Oh, geez, Dad, I'm s-s-sorry," I stammer, not knowing what to say. I hug him.


Gram's house. All her things, her plants, some dirty dishes in the sink. She must have died before she had a chance to wash them. She was always neat and tidy and would never leave those dishes unwashed. I feel so weird in the house, so I go out to the big old white oak and lean on it.

"Did you know Gram died today?" I ask it.

"The old human Sarah. Yes, I felt her spirit depart. It didn't look back, it just went straight up to where human spirits go when their body dies," the old tree says.

"What do you mean?" I asked, feeling bewildered.

"Didn't you know? YOU don't die when your physical body dies, Charlie. YOU are the spirit. Without YOU, your body couldn't live. So when a human body dies, its spirit leaves. It goes to a special place."

"To God?"

"Is God a place?"

"Well, no--at least--I don't think so. God is what we humans call our--Maker--our Creator." I stop, feeling myself on insecure grounds. I've never really understood just what God is or where God is.

"Our Creator," the tree says. It's quiet for a while. Then it says, "Your word God must mean that Great One Who created Father Sky and Mother Earth and all of us--all our relations, as the Native Americans say. I don't know where human spirits go. I'm not human, I'm a tree, and I haven't been to where tree spirits go when our physical bodies die. All I know is that the old human Sarah's spirit did go away, like it's supposed to."

"How do you know that if you can't go to where we're supposed to go?"

I'm startled by another voice, "The tree knows 'cuz I just told it!"

This new voice is not in my head like I hear the other trees' voices. That's like what humans call mental telepathy, I've discovered. No, this voice sounds almost physical! I look up in the tree, as the voice seems to be coming from above me. A roly-poly, funny-looking little man is sitting on one of the lower branches! I can almost reach out and touch him if I'd a mind to!

"So! Ye kin hear me and see me, I see!" he cackles. "Thought so, since ye kin talk to trees!"

I'm amazed! His hair is white and unruly-like, sticking out from under the edges of his stovepipe brown hat. He has a matching beard and handlebar moustache. He looks quite old, but young at the same time! Biut even though his body is round, his arms and legs are long and stick-thin; hands and feet look much too large for the rest of his body. He's dressed in raggedy greens that sorta hang on him, like--yeah, like tree leaves!

"Why are you here now? I've been here many times, talking to this story tree, and I sure never seen you here before!"

"I'm here now 'cuz that old Sarah human's gone now. She sent us all away, 'cept she couldn't send the tree away!" He cackles with laughter.

"She dinna know about the tree, though. It had sense enough to keep quiet when she was around. But some of the rest of us didn't! We tried to be friendly to her. But she chased us all away, she did, she did! But she can't chase us any MORE!"

The funny being leaps straight up and does a flip around in mid-air and makes a perfect landing on the branch where he'd been sitting earlier!

"Whaddya mean, she chased you away? You and who else? You're the only one I see here! WHEN did she send you away? And WHY, for Pete's sake?" I don't want anyone debasing the memory of my Gram. Heck, she's not even in her GRAVE yet! I stride swiftly away not even waiting for an answer.


I don't go back to the tree until after Gram's funeral. There were just too many other things my folks wanted me to help out with. Just as well. Kept me from brooding about that funny being that had showed up the other day. And also, a really funny, spooky thing happened that first night. I woke up in my room, sudden-liike. And LO and beHOLD! Heck, already I'm sounding like the authors of fairy tales do!

Anyway, there was this strange group of little people just sitting there along the wooden rail at the foot of the bed! Their bodies sorta glowed, which was why I could see them in the dark, I guess. I never use a night light any more--that's kid stuff!

Anyway, like I said--there they were just sitting there--staring at me for all they're worth! It sure freaked me out, and I dove under the covers. Big brave me! Yeah, all right! But what the heck--that's what anybody'd do in a situation like that! Well, like I was saying, I finally gathered up my courage from wherever I'd dropped it--and I took a peek out from under the covers--with one eye. NOTHING!!! That's right! There wasn't one single little person there!

So I sat up, big and brave now. I got up and turned on the little bed lamp. Then I looked carefully all around the room, behind stuff, too,--even got my flashlight and shined it under the bed! NOTHING! Just NOTHING!

So, even though I was still sleepy, I sat on the bed and tried to think this thing through. Tired though I was, I was still feeling--leery! Yeah, that's the right word--leery! It's a braver state to be in than scared. I felt sorta leery 'bout going back to sleep. Suppose they came back? Then what?

Finally I decided that keeping on the little light might keep them away. I did manage to get back to sleep, but I'm sure I tossed and turned the rest of the night. When Mom woke me up, she laughed. I was all tangled up-- "like you've been wrestling with someone!" was how she put it.


So now it's after the funeral and all the folks who stopped by are gone home, and now it's just the three of us. Mom and Dad are taking their ease out on the back porch. So I get brave and walk out front to the story tree. I catch a lower branch and swing myself up into the tree. Since I've grown so much, I don't need to stand on that box Gram got for me when I was only nine or so.


The Story Trees
1 ~ 2 ~ 3 ~ 4 ~ 5 ~ 6 ~ 7
8 ~ 9 ~ 10 ~ 11 ~ 12 ~ 13

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