I wrote my first story, The Magic Tree Stump, in third grade. We were living in a tiny Kansas town not far from where my parents were building the house I eventually grew up in. We rented a big brick farmhouse with a huge front porch from my father’s employer in exchange for maintaining the house and yard for the short period of time we lived there. It was a beautiful property! A small orchard had been planted on one side of the house bordering the banks of a spring-fed creek. On the other side of the house was an open field.
When my sister and I were out of school for the summer, you would often find us playing in the orchard and along the meandering creek. We climbed the trees, picked apples and peaches, played hide and seek, and made fishing poles out of tree limbs, but didn’t actually “fish” with them. We used our poles to build endless mounds of dead leaves in the shallow parts of the creek. We would then find big rocks to throw into the leaves which would, of course, send them flying! What fun!
Reading was another summer favorite. Just blocks from home was a small library, located on the second floor of the only store in town. My sister and I would walk to the store, climb the creaky stairs to the library and check out three books apiece – the maximum allowed. On our way out of the store, we’d make a much-anticipated purchase at the candy counter with the allowance money we had stashed in our pockets.
One day when our library books were due, I couldn’t find one of my books. I had looked everywhere I could think of and simply couldn’t find it. When I finally told my Mother I lost the book, I knew I was going to be in trouble, and sure enough, I was! There would be no more books for the rest of the summer if I didn’t find that book.
I remember running mindlessly out of the house! I was crying and didn’t want to go to the side of the house where my sister and our friends were playing in the creek. Forced to the side where no one ever goes, I sat whimpering on a big old tree stump next to the open field. With my head on my arms, I hugged my knees, convinced my summer was ruined. No more books! No more candy! No more fun!
Suddenly, I knew exactly where I had left the book! Like magic, I remembered it was on the front porch! We weren’t allowed to take our books outside, but we could take them to the porch. I searched the house from top to bottom, but hadn’t looked out there. Whew! I was no longer in trouble! Summer continued! All was right with the world!
When school started again, my new teacher asked us to write a short story about summer break. My family hadn’t gone anywhere because my parents were busy working on the house I would always call home. So, amid stories from my classmates of vacations spent in exciting places, my story was about the magic tree stump that helped me find a missing book. And I swear it helped me find several other things that summer!
I don’t know how old I was when I finally figured out the tree stump didn’t possess magical powers! It was really the time in solitude spent focusing on nothing but what I was looking for that held the magic. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy a quiet walk by myself on a daily basis. I’m convinced that peaceful silence is good for the mind and the soul. I will admit, however, there are times I’d love nothing more than to have a magic tree stump somewhere along the way. This trying to remember things, even when completely focused, doesn’t always work anymore!
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