A question I have to answer with each of these posts is what entry from my 1968 leaf collection to feature next. Of course, I have to have a good lumen print to start, and I can't just write about all my favorites first. If I did, the end of this series would be pretty boring. For most of my adult life, I have considered the chinaberry to be an undesirable invasive species. I can't say that I have a fondness for it. In fact, if I happened to be collecting a bucket of leaves today, I'd give it a pass. My 14 year old self had no such prejudice. And I do have a particular memory associated with the chinaberry, so I collected a leaf today from a tree growing in our fence row and made a lumen print. I was experimenting with a new paper and the soft pastel result appealed to me. Hence, the chinaberry is entry number two.
My brother and I spent a week with each set of grandparents every summer, and these visits were something we looked forward to. On my father's side, there was a gang of cousins that traveled in a pack every chance we got and when Jess and I were at my grandparents, the rest of the gang was often there too. We made hay forts in the barn, dared each other to lick the salt and mineral blocks set out for the cows, went hunting and fishing with Grandpa, and generally ran wild. As least as wild as you can run when you are on a farm in the middle of nowhere.
On my mother's side, there wasn't a gang of cousins, but there was a whole set of indulgent aunts and uncles. My mother being the second eldest of ten siblings, many of our aunts and uncles were teenagers when we were youngsters. That we would be entertained and spoiled was a given. The chinaberry tree figures in a week spent with my mother's family when I was perhaps 10 or 11. There was a chinaberry tree in the yard of the house they were living in, and we had had chinaberry fights all week. But the memory that sticks with me is of being incredibly homesick by the end of the week. Of sitting under the chinaberry tree, leaning on the trunk, facing east, and watching the road relentlessly. Eyes glued to the top of the hill where the old red pickup would appear first. I have no idea what had led me to be so homesick, but I can recall precisely the joy and relief I felt when my parents crested the hill. And the chinaberry is etched into that moment.