The giving trees are gone

September 25, 2020


The giving trees are gone - by Leslie Anne Tarabella

My son used to hide Shel Silverstein’s book, “The Giving Tree” and tell me, “Mommy, don’t read this because it makes you cry.” But really now, who amongst us doesn’t like a good tree story? 

After a hurricane in Mobile or tornado in Huntsville, we hear the same response. A damaged roof? — It can be fixed. Downed traffic lights? — Don’t worry, we’ll replace them. No power? — Grab the flashlight. But if a tree falls anywhere in town, we all respond by covering our eyes and grimacing. “Oh, that makes me sick! Just sick!” 

Avenue of the oaks at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama
Avenue of Oaks – Spring Hill College – thank goodness, they had only minor damage to these trees in Mobile, AL.

Alabama is a state that loves its trees. We take our lush-leafy surroundings for granted and only see their beauty when newcomers go crazy over how green everything is. 

“I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree. . .” We learned these lines in school and compared our ladies to magnolias. We covered our floors with warm pine boards and named streets after Dogwoods, Oaks and Crepe Myrtles. 

Magnolias by Leslie Anne Tarabella

Recently emerging from a brutal beating by Hurricane Sally, we’ve seen some inland damage to homes, but it appears this time, we’ve had a record-breaking loss of trees. 

The same son who hid the children’s book from me, grew up and made a tree swing for my Mother’s Day surprise. Much to his embarrassment I wove silk flowers all around the rope handles. “You made it too frilly” he complained. Quarantining at home this summer, I took great delight knowing the person on the other end of my business phone call never realized I was gliding back and forth, dangling my feet in the shade of a giant Shumard Oak — the same 60 ft. tall tree Hurricane Sally tossed into my swimming pool. The pretty swing was dumped in a heap beneath a tangle of branches. 

Tree swing - Leslie Anne Tarabella

Last week, gardening expert Bill Finch wrote a column about how to care for our trees before and after a hurricane. I read Bill’s column as I sat in front of a window overlooking my backyard where 13 large trees were jumbled like the Fiddlesticks game my cousins and I played at the kitchen table. 

Hurricane Sally tree damage by  Leslie Anne Tarabella

Since meteorologists have cried wolf over small tropical storms for the past few years, scaring everyone to death over a big -fat-nothing, no one paid attention to this call for another low-grade storm. What actually came through our neighborhood and most of the city was a Category 2 or maybe even a 3 with rushes of possible tornadoes. 

At dawn, we could finally see our yard. The two trees we were planning on removing later this year were standing strong and tall, while those we cherished for their wall of privacy, shade and color, were scrambled together like green spaghetti.  

Magnolia leaves

“Oh, that makes me sick, just sick!” I told my husband. And all the people in town emerged from their houses, looked at their trees and said the exact same thing. “Sick, just sick.” 

I crawled beneath the horizontal limbs and pulled the swing out to save for another tree, another day. 

This story first appeared on

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