The cool trade winds rustled the leaves overhead, as the music drifted over the prestigious crowd. Laughter filled the air, while voices raised and lowered as the music kept its pace. No one paid any mind to the leaves overhead, or to the branches that wrapped themselves in braids high above their heads. Nor did they notice the disarray of branches weaving in and out of the iron latticed-cover of the pergola. But the tree, now weathered, and living longer than most of its peers, listened as he had so many times before to the crowd huddled below its lighted foliage. Times were different now of course, because he was older and wiser… but the conversations were the same as they had been for as long as he could remember.
The military officers in their finest uniforms stood in huddled masses discussing the latest military issue. While the wives shifted from one leg to the other giving rest to their weary feet. All about them caterers in crisp uniforms glided from one group to the other carrying trays of miniature entrees and desserts. Some nights were different of course. Some nights found the officers in Aloha shirts and slacks, but the women really never changed. Their hair piled high upon their heads or long and endless notified the tree of yet another decade now gone…faded like the sunsets over the ocean nearby. But still the ladies were the same, wearer of dresses, light perfume and a touch of lipstick to accentuate their lips.
Tonight the tree arched its branches towards the outer perimeter of the patio as if reaching to grab the musicians just beyond its reach. The music, his favorite, played across the crowd, bouncing back against the house and resting on each leaf, energizing them. If only his trunk were not grounded to the earth he would step gracefully across the patio as if he were the most famous dancer in the world. Instead he is placated by the sounds of South Pacific, and allow his leaves to sway in the breeze in unison to the notes floating through the air.
It wasn’t long ago that this music was new to him. He was half his size now, and there was a war going on around him. Life was so different then, so urgent and combustible. Those that met below his branches then were living for that moment alone, and had no time to think about the future.
A small tug on a branch, and the tree finds a man inspecting its thickness. If only the man knew the difficulty in maintaining his livelihood through the years. Like the old home that now had become his friend, he fought to live amongst the ever- changing world around him. There was always someone trying to cut him back, or redirect his roots so that they would not disturb the house or guests. But little did they know that his roots now held the pipes down of the old Admiral’s quarters, and his massive canopy was truly a blessing for guests on hot summer days when even the band struggled to sound upbeat.
The old tree didn’t mind the clinking of glasses from the bar below him, or the warming lights dangling precariously from his limbs. He didn’t mind lovers who leaned against his strong trunk, stealing kisses before returning to the dance floor either. For this is what he was meant to do, to record history as it was made beneath his branches. And so, on this glorious night below the stars, the old tree leaned into the gentle breeze and whispered thank you to those who could not hear him…those beneath the old tree.