Chicago storms: When a tree falls and everyone hears it

Each summer, my three sons dream of building their very own tree house. In many ways, I completely understand this childhood desire for a fort of one’s own. A tree house is freedom: a place where little boys and girls form a club, craft sacred rules, and eat entire bags of Gummy Bears without reproach. It is a foray into adulthood and independence, but one where the promise of mom being only seconds away remains.

The trouble with my kids’ fervent hope for this castle in the sky is the fact that we do not actually own a tree. The parkway maple is technically the city’s property. During our home search years ago, I managed to pick the only house in all of Beverly without a hint of bark or branch.

The Tree Lovers of America often express their disdain for my lack of forestation skills. They cite my pitiful carbon footprint and insist I plant a nice spruce as soon as possible. They even try to shame me with reminders on how I use damaging aerosol hairspray and that I owe the world at least one mighty oak.

I steadfastly continue to mow down every seedling that dares take root.

The thing is, I know my bad luck. If I were to plant a tree, it would fall on me. Or it would get diseased and cost $10,000 to fix. Or its roots would destroy sewer pipes. I never second-guessed my decision to avoid calamity and disaster in this regard.

Yet I discovered Monday night that the tree sprites were indeed still after me. But this time?

They missed.

And they totally got my neighbors:

The kids had been out trying to collect lightening bugs with red Solo cups when a loud thump disturbed the tranquil night air. Joe and I sat immobilized on the couch. The only noises we were trained to respond to were tornado sirens, crying kids, and the local police helicopter tracking armed felons through the neighborhood. A loud thump was as benign a noise to us as church bells.

Yet when our neighbor appeared at the back door toting a baby and two toddlers, we reconsidered our stance on loud thumps. The distracted mom hastily entrusted her children with us while mumbling something about a tree crashing through their house.

“You don’t think she meant an actual tree-tree, do you?” questioned Joe once she left.

“Why? Do you suppose it’s a metaphor for something else?”

“She was way too calm to have had an actual tree fall on them. I mean, shouldn’t she be hysterical?”

“But then why are all her kids crying about how ‘that bad twee bwoke ow house’? “

Joe put on his shoes to investigate.

Within 20 minutes, the local alderman, emergency personnel, Com Ed, and a neighbor bearing a casserole all arrived to help.

The next day, I enjoyed six straight hours of mesmerized children as enormous machinery transported dozens of super-sized branches across the afternoon sky. The choreography was amazing – huge cranes and experienced crews working together to dodge electrical wires, basketball nets, and houses that stood six inches apart:

By the end of it all, the tree was relegated to a pile of mulch. My neighbors were physically, emotionally, and financially spent. I assured them that their bad luck was most certainly done for the year.

But for someone like me who is prone to reading too much into such a freak occurrence, I was surprised to discover I hadn’t transformed into Chicken Little. The sky was not falling. Everyone was OK.

That’s when I called Joe at the firehouse to wish him goodnight.

“You’re not going to believe this,” he shared, “ANOTHER huge tree broke and fell on some people today, turn on NBC news. What are the odds? Trees are just falling out of the sky this week!”

Cue Chicken Little.

I have officially added “falling trees” to my list of phobias right along with sink holes, tornados, and spontaneous combustion.

I may never leave my basement again.

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