There’s a tree on a trail about an hour from our home. An aspen tree.
My son’s and my special tree.
If you were to see it, you wouldn’t think it was all that special. After all, you’d pass thousands of other aspens to reach ours. Most of those aspens would also stand lankily against the sides of the trail with names and shapes carved into them.
Other people’s names. Other people’s shapes.
But our tree is different. It’s special.
Because it has our names carved into it.
We carved them together. You’ll remember from this picture that I shared during the summer of 2011. Some of you were angry that I would brutally slice into the flesh of something living.
But I didn’t care. Because that tree and that trail and that mountain are now a permanent part of both of us, and we are now a permanent part of them.
We both carry scars that we have received from our adventures in the mountains. And this tree, which is part of the trail, which is part of the mountain, now carries a scar from us.
It’s our special tree.
Not because it is different than any other tree.
Not because it is taller, or wider, or prettier.
It is our special tree because it has our names.
It has my name.
Forever more, my child will remember hunting alongside me for the perfect tree. He’ll remember the process we used to always be able to find it again. He’ll remember switching open the carving knife. He’ll remember our first cuts. He’ll remember holding the knife while dad held his hand steady. He’ll remember the sense of satisfaction. He’ll remember looking at our finished work and feeling something far more beautiful than video games or tv shows or iPods.
Time will season my child. Without fail, he will stop being Daddy’s little boy and he’ll mature and then eventually become a man. He won’t need dad’s steadying hands, dad’s plans, or dad’s touch. He’ll explore the great outdoors on his own and without me.
Which is why this tree is so special.
We marked it on our first real hike together, as father and son. Our first real hike of what will one day be hundreds.
And every year, maybe every two years, we will hike again to this tree. And we will run our fingers across the scars. And we will remember why we do what we do, what we mean to each other, and why the Earth is so important to us.
Only days ago we went back to our tree.
Our special tree.
We ran our fingers across the scars which were now tough and dark. We stood in reverence for a moment. We both remembered.
And after I took some photos, Noah looked at me and said, “Dad, I wanna come here when I’m six, too.”
We pinky promised that we would come together to this tree forevermore. Not just next year.
And maybe one day, when my joints aren’t working as quickly as I’d like them to, and this simple trail becomes difficult for me, I will still accompany my son, and his son, to our tree. We will still run our hands across the scars. And we will, for a moment, be connected in the powerful way we were when we first made our mark together.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
PS. Do you have anything you can go back to with your children to always remember? What takes you back to magical moments?