Life from Above

11 November 2018

The first tree I ever climbed was a lamppost on Henry Street. I was small and the few trees that lined those Brooklyn streets were too wide for me to wrap my arms around. I shimmied up to the top and held myself there, arms shaking and mouth gaping at all that I could see. The streets looked so wide and my mother so small as she begged me to come down.

From then on, I climbed ceaselessly. I never swung on the swing sets, but rather worked my way up their black poles and observed the playground from above. My childhood passed in a jungle of urban treetops from which I observed life below, birds above, and relished the freedom of being surrounded by nothing but air.

Life from Above Essay Example

Eventually I grew too old to climb the lampposts and trees of my neighborhood, but in many ways I remained living among those concrete treetops. I often felt that my childhood was spent observing, from a height, what other children did. My mother, an eccentric to say the least, built our home in an industrial loft where nearly every surface was a canvas. Only the kitchen table was not to be defiled, though even it had a poem or two etched into its surface. It was our treehouse. In it, life was an adventure. School for us meant the perusal of our dreams as they appeared to us that day. On the days I wanted to be a writer, I spent my time around the house poring over John Keats, tussling with Homer. On days when I wanted to be a doctor, I donned my lab coat and plucked my sister’s splinters. I never had mathematician days. The entirety of the world was in my palms, and I eagerly grasped it. From our height we watched the happenings far below: children boarding school buses, block parties we didn’t attend, and holidays we never celebrated.

As glorious as life in the treehouse was, it was not without thunderstorms, booming with the sound of arguing parents. It was not without earthquakes when late child support and unpaid bills threatened to destroy our home. It was not without the heavy rainstorms of a sadness I couldn’t understand. However ravaged we were by the weather of life, we were free.

But no treehouse can withstand a man with a chainsaw. Through the roaring zip of the saw, we watched our treehouse come crashing down, and I felt the ground for the first time. The ground then manifested itself as School. I donned a uniform, got a nickname, and started doing math when I was told. Like a sailor at sea for months, I found that the ground was unfriendly to me. My lungs ached as they adjusted to the strange new altitude. I often found myself out of breath, gasping for some shred of familiarity.

Now my feet have adjusted, and my lungs have adapted. But even as I make my way across the ground, I carry with me what I learned in the trees, and I wonder if there is another destiny for those who crave life from above, or those who are tired of running out of breath down here.

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