In Part 6, I turned off the lights to tell a story, “The Halloween Story.” Lights off can be as bonding as snuggling, and definitely an attention grabber. The lesson learned was being brave, and how scary things might not be scary after all.
There is no intentional learning for children, nor animals in this story. It is the ‘real deal’. It just happened. And the thrilling story speaks for itself, absolutely captivating children. Good stories are like that.
The Tree Story
I begin the story holding my arm straight up and saying, “My house”, then moving my arm to the left and saying, “The Kruger’s house.” This is important to the story, so I repeat those words with my arm.
“It happened like this.” In the middle, right in between the two houses, was a huge tree. It was gigantic, a towering sweet gum tree. It was much too big to be between the houses. Now, a sweet gum tree has thousands of balls that are full of sharp prickers. They dropped all over the yard. Grass couldn’t grow. Not only that, you couldn’t walk barefoot because the sweet gum balls stabbed your feet. They even went all the way through flip-flops. Ouch!
The tree had to come down.
Where I worked there was a man named Ray. He would come to your house and take down your tree. It didn’t cost you anything, because he kept all the wood from the tree. So, I said, “Ray, it’s the sweet gum tree. It’s right between my house and the Kruger’s. It’s way too big, and the prickers are all over the place. Can you come over and take down the tree?”
Sure enough, bright and early Saturday morning, Ray arrived. He had his two big teenage sons with him. They got to work right away. First they went up to the tip top and started taking down branches.
I make sweeping chopping movements and sounds.
Ray chopped off the top part of the tree. Next, he moved to the lower section of branches and started taking them down. They were much bigger.
I make slow, heavy chopping movements and sounds.
The wind started to blow, so Ray and his sons came down from the tree and took a lunch break. Soon, they were back up, and cutting away. The branches were really big, and it was hard to cut them. As they worked, the wind became strong. They were getting close to the lower part of the tree. Ray decided they should stop, and make the big cut at the bottom to take down the tree. It was too hard to cut big branches in all the wind.
He said it would be okay.
As Ray made the cut…
This is where I put up my arm, lean it a little to the left (the Kruger’s house) slowly making creaking sounds. I do this twice. Inevitably a child ‘gets it’ and says, “No! it’s going the wrong way!”
And the pace quickens. I’m telling the story as if I’m telling the part in Jack and the Beanstalk where Jack is climbing down the beanstalk being chased by the giant. The difference is… my story is real.
Yes! It’s going the wrong way! The tree might crash on the Kruger’s house. Steve ran across the street to Jim’s house. Jim had the thick, orange, glow-in-the-dark rope that never brakes. Never, ever. Jim saw the emergency and came to help. They wrapped the thick orange rope around the tree.
I move my arm, circling hard and fast, as if I’m wrapping that rope.
Now, there were five big, strong men holding the rope- Steve, Jim, Ray and his two sons. They grabbed the ends of the rope and said, “One, two, three, pull!” They pulled. And the rope went snap, snap, snap.
I snap my fingers each time I say ‘snap’. There is silence. No one speaks or moves.
This was really bad. This was a real emergency. What do you do when there is a real emergency? Who do you call?
No, that’s close, but not the right number.
Yes! Steve said, “Jennie, call 9-1-1.” I did. I was so nervous. My hands were shaking. It was hard to dial the phone.
“Hello. It’s the sweet gum tree. It’s going to crash on the Kruger’s house. Please help.”
Within minutes the big, red fire truck arrived. Mike Aimen, the Fire Chief, was driving the truck. He looked at everything and talked to Steve. I could see him crossing his arms. Then he looked down, shaking his head. “I cannot help you”, he said. “The only person who can help is The Tree Man.”
I called right away. “Hello? It’s the tree at the Fitzkee’s house. It’s ready to fall down, on the Kruger’s house.”
“I’ll be right over.”
When The Tree Man arrived he never smiled. He didn’t say a word. He had a huge cherry picker truck, and he rode in the bucket to get to the tree. By now, it was starting to get dark. And the wind was howling.
Steve said, “Jennie, leave. Take the children and go away. I don’t want them to be here if something terrible happens.” He was right. I put the kids in the car and took them to McDonald’s for dinner. They loved it, I couldn’t eat a bite. When we got back home, it was dark. All the neighbors were lined up on the street, looking at The Tree Man. The fire truck was still there so it could shine a bright beam of flood light on the tree. No one said a word. All we could hear was the wind and The Tree Man’s saw.
It was bedtime for our children. I decided to bring sleeping bags downstairs to the den, just in case the tree crashed through our roof. As I rolled out the sleeping bags, I felt the ground shake, and I heard a low rumble. The tree had fallen! I rushed outside to see the giant tree trunk in our backyard. Whew.
The neighbors went home. The fire chief went home. The Tree Man finally spoke to us. “You were very lucky. I did not think I could save how that tree fell. You should never, ever have someone take down a big tree unless they are a professional.” We thanked him over and over. We were lucky.
Stay tuned for Part 8.