A Tree In
Copyright 2009 by Karen Treanor
Some years ago we got lost while trying to find friends in the small town of Chidlow in the Perth Hills region of Western Australia. Veteran Hills residents will snicker at this, having perhaps forgotten how easy it is to do. At that time we lived down on the coastal plain, and didn’t know much about the Hills. We didn’t understand then that a street could be in three separate parts, unconnected to each other, and without any sign to tell the weary traveller that she might be on the wrong piece of a tripartite road. Nor did we appreciate that every little town liked to name its own piece of a road, and so the same one might have two, three, or more names along its length.
While lost, we got to see a lot of Mundaring, Parkerville, Stoneville and maybe bits of West Adelaide—we were lost a long time. But we liked what we saw, even while our stomachs growled at being two hours late for the promised barbecue.
A few years after this adventure, we found ourselves imminently homeless when the house we'd had on the market five months suddenly sold. "Twenty-eight days, that should be long enough," I mused as we scanned the note from the real estate agent.
Well, no: it's not as long as you think when you have an eviction notice hanging over you and both partners have full-time jobs.
I made the rounds of real estate agents and met a procession of young go-getter male agents who all seemed to suffer from the same inability to hear what I was saying. What's so difficult about "A bit of land, four bedrooms, a decent shed for Himself, and nothing above my stated price range”? After being shown yet another glossy brochure for a house fifty grand above my price limit, I made a mumbled excuse and left. On the way home I thought "Mundaring; that looked nice, I'll call someone there."
By great good fortune I found Trish, who worked for a long-established Hills realty company, and the following Sunday she showed me four houses, all fitting my requirements. I was torn between two of them, but chose the one with the fantastic tree. The house was nothing to write home about, but the tree--it was a world-class tree, a Goliath of trees, a fantastic tree, the mother of all Blue Gums--I had to have that tree.
I went home and told my husband I'd just made an offer of five years’ wages for a tree. He, bless his heart, evinced no surprise, dismay or anger. He merely asked in a soothing tone if it came with a house.
"And a shed!" I exclaimed, remembering belatedly that one of the reasons for moving was to give him a bit of space for himself.
It was arranged that he should view this property before committing himself to a 20 year mortgage. He duly viewed, found the shed acceptable, and we signed the papers. He later told me that while the tree was a fine example of its type, what did it for him was the stone driveway. There was something impressive about having a driveway built of mortared stones. (It was somewhat less impressive after the moving van left, but that’s another story.)
As I said, the house itself was fairly ho-hum. It had no storage space of any description other than the shed and the attic crawl space. The bathroom was unspeakably hideous, having been installed during the late-1960’s rage for purple fixtures and tiny mosaic floor tiles. The pocket-hanky laundry room had four doors and a window, which did not leave much space for any laundry equipment. The living room had wall-to-wall carpet that looked as if they’d skinned a scrofulous Scotsman and nailed him down. Who knew there were so many shades of burnt orange?
However, what the place did have was heaps of potential: there was potential coming out the eaves. Gene agreed that with an old ten thousand dollar bill and a lot of weekend work, something might be made of the place.
The three children and the live-in nephew, who were the reason for needing the four bedrooms, took one look at the place and 75% of them moved out en masse. The younger daughter didn't even bother moving in. The nephew expressed doubts about his aging vehicle’s ability to make the climb up Greenmount Hill. The elder daughter said it was too quiet and too far from Fremantle. She and the nephew moved out the following week to share a place with some of her college friends.
All that kept the youngest at home was the realisation that if he didn't live with us he'd suddenly have to learn about laundry and cooking and possibly give up pouring his wages into the love of his life, an old Ford Falcon big enough to house the average family of boat people.
On moving day as the sun went down, we hauled our aging bones outside and stood under the giant tree with a couple of celebratory glasses of wine and toasted our new life in the Hills.
As I raised my glass to whatever dryads might be hovering in the branches, a passing magpie let loose a limy, slimy bundle, which hit the rim of the glass and slithered down my wrist.
I didn't recognize this for a portent, but I should
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