I believe in the Power of the Ugly Tree

I believe in the power of Ugly Tree. Growing up, I frequently went to Spreckle’s Park, which, as a child, resembled a forest of lusciously green wooden skyscrapers. In the center of the park, one tree in particular stood out like a blemish on the face of the park. It had a rough, wrinkly bark with branches that shot from the trunk at unpredictable angles. It seemed to be a sage, mocking its robust, youthful companions.

I realized Ugly Tree’s significance in middle school. The parochial school I attended, which was across the street from Spreckle’s, allowed my class to have lunch in the park. As my friend, Gloria, and I walked nomadically during recesses, I pointed out Ugly Tree. It was the first time I shared my special name for the tree with anyone. We both agreed that the tree was heinously deformed. Yet, a deep discussion led us to the conclusion that there was an inherent beauty in its oddity. It was hideous, but we respected its uniqueness and spent every lunch period eating beneath its awkward branches.

As graduation approached, Gloria and I realized our days with Ugly Tree were numbered. Not only would we be separated from Spreckle’s Park, but we would be separated from each other. I had recently learned my family would be moving across the country. On graduation, as our classmates hugged each other in tears, Gloria and I sandwiched Ugly Tree into our sobbing embrace. We reluctantly left the protective arms of Ugly Tree and went our separate ways.

Years later, I journeyed back to Spreckle’s for a reunion with Gloria. We had both definitely outgrown our plaid jumper uniforms. We met back at Ugly Tree, falling easily back into our old ritual. We discussed upcoming goals and the different events that affected our lives since our last encounter. Night eventually fell. We began to head towards Gloria’s car with linked arms, but we stopped after walking halfway to the parking lot. We turned, and after releasing each other, began to sprint back towards Ugly Tree.

“Tree huggers!” someone yelled from the other side of the park.

Arms wrapped tightly against its bumpy trunk, Gloria and I both laughed. We successfully made it back to the car on our second attempt of leaving Spreckle’s, but the drive to my hotel was silent. I wasn’t sure if all the talking earlier in the day had left us tired, if “Forever Young” playing on the radio was captivating our attention, or if our upcoming goodbyes were beginning to overwhelm us. As Gloria drove away, I felt less sad knowing my friendship with her would never end. We would always be running (perhaps a little slower at 80) towards each other and towards Ugly Tree. I believe in the power of Ugly Tree, even if others find me a little strange, because it is a comfort to know that Ugly Tree will still be standing tall, and a little twisted, in our absence.

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