The cherry tree of summer

Sometimes it seems that God created some trees for kids to climb. Such a tree dominated the McCullough family’s backyard, six doors down the street from our rowhouse on Baltimore’s Cator Avenue. The tree’s heavy arms, hanging low, tempted, nay, invited kids to grab hold and hoist up. And up, and up, where the cherries were.

As I bought a bag of cherries at the grocery supermarket the other day, my thoughts returned to the childhood summers when a friendly neighbor family welcomed children to their shady yard and gave their smiling consent to climb that sprawling cherry tree and sample its tasty fruit. Climb high enough, and a kid could step over to a nearby garage roof to fetch an errant ball. That maneuver made the McColloughs nervous, and they gently suggested that we not try it, but they pretended not to notice when we did.

The cherries were plentiful in season, and we easily could have filled a turned-up shirt tail and taken some of the fruit home to our parents. We never did, though, content to pick and pop them right there on the spot from our perches high among the branches.

Kids invented their own entertainment in those days many decades before television, Wi-Fi and cell phones came along. Various ball games, relay races, kick the can, and street hockey kept us sweat-stained and happy during those humid Baltimore summers. But climbing the McCulloughs’ friendly cherry tree and sitting among its branches to enjoy its bounty remains up there at the top of my favorite summer activities list. It warms my memory and brings a smile now as I bite into another store-bought cherry.

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