Dena Daw is a mom, tree lover, and self-proclaimed humorist who resides in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, and is not afraid to pronounce it. A graduate from the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism, she enjoys blogging and writing short stories, several of which have been published online via A Fly in Amber and Black Lantern Publishing. When she’s not eating, writing, or staking out trees, she’s a full-time mom in the process of adopting her third child from Uganda.
The other day, I walked up to school to pick up my daughter with my four-year-old tagging along. (Is that right? He doesn’t really have an option, so maybe “tagging along” isn’t the right term. He’s stuck with me, poor soul, and has absolutely no choice but to follow me, even if it’s down the tampon aisle.)
So, yes, he was following me to the school, and we went to stake our claim at the shady tree – one of two shady trees in the vicinity – as we do every day.
And when I say we “stake our claim,” I mean it. For real.
Ever since my daughter was in kindergarten, this tree has been mine. Being a ridiculously punctual person (and by punctual, I mean I generally arrive 10-15 minutes early, so please don’t be naked), I have always been one of the first parents to arrive at the scene. And let me tell you, this tree is perfect. Just small enough for the other parents to walk on by, oblivious to its awesomeness, but big enough to provide me protection from basal cell carcinoma and other moms that wear blinged-out jeans.
It has always been mine. Most of the long-standing walker parents understand this. It is an unspoken agreement; they stay near the bike rack, hang out near the sidewalk, or use the other shade tree and leave me, the tree freak, alone.
Over the years I have made some friends and accepted them into the inner tree circle, but I am always the first one standing there, like a bouncer. It’s nice to have the inner tree circle, because sometimes it plays out like a scene from West Side Story, with all of us grouping together and standing down, except no one is snapping or wearing leather jackets. (Or maybe we are.)
For the majority of the year, no one challenges the order of things; it is a peaceful existence. But the other day it happened, just like it does every year. Kindergarten parents, with their crying ways, and their cameras, kissing their five-year-olds and waving and snapping pictures as they comfort each other under the shade of My. Tree.
They are completely oblivious to the fact that there is an order here, people. A long-established order that cannot be tampered with. No matter how punctual I am, these kindergarten parents always arrive like an hour early for a photo op. There is no beating them to the school, at least not with a bra on. And trust me, there is never just one to deal with. There are several, and some have bikes, taking up at least 90% of basal-cell-blocking shade.
Yes, it’s true, they only arrive early for about one week out of the year. But they will always insert themselves under my tree before I can get there, and standing in the same place for an entire week can often lead to a year-long habit. Not on my watch.
So, as you can see, every year I am left with several choices on how to deal with this. The first and the most obvious solution would be to not shower for at least a week. This plan is flawed, however, due to my inner circle, whom I cannot risk losing for fear of looking like that crazy loner mom who doesn’t want to be friends with anyone but a tree. Therefore, I am forced to consider other options.
After about a week I am usually able to arrive before the newbies, so I generally make sure I stand there in the absolute middle of the tree shade, faking a loud conversation on my cell phone. For the most part, people shy away from women who are talking loudly into a phone that is clearly turned off.
Other options include asking questions regarding income/religion/politics. Quickly the crowd around my tree will begin to shrink, especially if I decide to forgo the aforementioned bra. Regardless, even after the fake cell phone conversation, the brooding looks, the leather jackets and snapping, or the bra-less woman asking if they know Jesus, there will always be that one special person who decides that the tree is worth it.
Anyone who values that precious tree as much as I do is henceforth accepted and brought into the inner tree circle. Introductions are made all around and another leather jacket is ordered. And so a new year, and a new friendship, begins.