The Storytelling Tree

Olivia learns to play croquet
Andy loved building things. He worked a good, long day on my whim to swing like a kid again.
           Up and down his extension ladder he went, drilling two holes into a limb of a maple, turning giant eyehooks until secure, knotting the rope and threading it through the wood seat.   
“Want to test it?” he asked at last.
I did for twelve years until the weathered rope gave up the ghost this summer. Unable to find someone like Andy to tackle the replacement, I forewarned my friend Debra that her granddaughter, Olivia, wouldn’t be able to swing when they visited the following week.
“Olivia said she would help you fix it,” Debra replied.
I understood the child’s whim to swing again.
On the scheduled day and time, Debra and Olivia arrived on my doorstep. “I’m three and seven twelfths now,” Olivia announced.
The second she devoured her first scone with cream, she ran to examine the swing. “It doesn’t look broken.”
The man of the house came to the rescue. “Hello Olivia,” Mel said, aware of the child’s disappointment.
“Let’s ask Mel to test the swing,” I said.
The frayed rope snapped in two.
Olivia played the good sport. She rolled down hills, ate another scone with cream, and taught Debra and me her version of croquet, which evolved into bowling.
Yet, Olivia wandered back to the broken swing, longing to fulfill her heart’s expectation, and came close to whining.
In consolation, Debra sat beside her three and seven twelfths grandchild on our swing-for-two, but “it didn’t go high enough,” Olivia said.
“Is it time to go home?” Debra asked.
What else is a grandmother to do?
Then the sugar maple by the fire pit called our names. “Let’s go to the storytelling tree,” I said.
To my surprise, Olivia took Debra’s hand and followed me.
“Who wants to go first?” I asked.
“You go,” Olivia said.
I sat with my back to the tree trunk. Olivia snuggled in the cradle of Debra’s lap, the girl’s dress and green crinoline slip splayed over Debra’s legs.
“Once upon a time,” I began, “there were three hens: Blackie, Goldie, and Whitey. Every night Blackie, a pessimist, worried Mel wouldn’t show up to close their chute and then a critter would walk up the ramp, through the chute, and into the house where they roosted. And then no more Blackie, Goldie, and Whitey.” 
“’Don’t worry Blackie,’ said Goldie, ‘Mel always shows up.’”
“’And if Mel doesn’t, Iris does,’ said Whitey.’”
“Then they heard Mel at the door. ’Hello girls!’ he said, and closed their chute. ‘Sleep tight!’”
“‘Bock! Told you, Blackie!’ Goldie and Whitey sang. Then they all slept tight. The end.”
To my utmost surprise, Olivia cheered, “Tell the story again!”
Debra took my cue and told her embellished version.
“Tell the story again!” Olivia pleaded.
You see, dear Reader, Debra and I love building stories. Unlike tangible things, good stories stand the test of time.
Especially when they’re built for a three and seven twelfths year old.