Growing up in Georgia meant that there was always an abundance of Magnolia trees, a large, leafy tree with sturdy branches suitable for climbing. I have fond memories high up in the branches of a Magnolia, memories of a friendship that blossomed along with the white flowers. My next door neighbors had a huge Magnolia in their front yard, and I loved to climb it every day, being the five-year-old tomboy that I was. Once I discovered the low branches hidden beneath the massive green leaves I was obsessed. After my mom deemed the tree safe for me to climb, I spent every possible hour I could scaling up and down the thick branches, until one day I heard the door of my neighbor’s house open. I had not asked if I could climb their tree, and hoped that I was not about to be scolded by a grumpy old man yelling “get out of my lawn!” The mystery neighbor was actually a young girl about my age, a girl who would soon become my best friend for the next 10 years.
She came to the base of the tree, looked up the trunk at me, and quietly asked what my name was and what I was doing. My inner know-it-all responded “Sydney, and I am climbing your tree, don’t you ever do this?” She confessed that her name was Anna, and that no, she had never climbed the tree because she did not know how. I quickly taught her the basics and before long I had a partner to climb trees with me. Climbing trees became playing outside, which became sleepovers, then slowly spending all of our time together. After almost six years of friendship we carved our initials in the very top of the tree, “SC + AW = BFF”, a carving which I would imagine still exists today.
A tree that is commonly used as furniture and door material created an environment for friendship and brought two girls together who would normally never be friends. I was a total tomboy and she loved makeup, but our shared love of the beautiful Magnolia sparked a long lasting friendship. That tree easily could have been cut down and used for lumber, but it’s mere existence changed my life. The evergreen tree never lost its large green leaves, and even during the cold winters it provided us a place to hang sheets and create a cozy blanket fort.
Every time I catch a glimpse of a Magnolia I am instantly taken back to the years spent in the branches of my Magnolia, years I would not trade for the world. The memories from that tree are stronger than any other memory I have, almost as strong as the branches that watched two girls grow up. The tree grew with us, and as we grew taller and matured, it did too. Even at eighteen years old I still am tempted to climb every Magnolia I see, just to relieve that daunting feeling of dangling my feet twenty feet in the air while leaning on the trunk. That tree was my safe space, where I went when I was sad, lonely, or stressed; I let myself forget my problems and focused on climbing as high as I possibly could, until the branches could no longer support me. I still feel this sense of safety when I see a Magnolia, and wonder if I would enjoy the same benefits if I climbed one today, if I would be reminded of my childhood, when my most concerning problem was if my favorite cartoon was on TV.
My time spent in the Magnolia taught me not only about friendship, but about time spent on my own, attempting to work through my problems. It gave me a place to clear my head and forget the world around me. I could use this sense of security in my current life, a life filled with the stress of moving to college and attempting to make friends. Maybe if I used the wisdom from the Magnolia, that friends will come easily if I am myself, making friends in college will prove much easier than I previously believed. I am eternally grateful for those large white flowers.