Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Up a Tree About Age

When I was still in high school, I recall deciding I was too old to trick or treat on Halloween.  To be honest, I never liked candy so I wasn’t exactly making a great sacrifice.  It was sort of like giving up piano playing for Lent since I never played.  I also never liked getting into costumes – still don’t – and invariably went door-to-door in the “disguise” of a student of exactly my own age. 

Halloween, I decided at age 15, was for little children.

In our neighborhood in Akron, Ohio was always filled with kids.  So, we always had lots of them come by the house for candy on Halloween.   Since I wasn’t going out, I decided to climb the large tree in front of our house to watch the costumed nightcrawlers troop up to the front door.   It was like having a closed-circuit TV: I was hidden, yet, at the same time, able to see what was happening. 

At least 10 to 15 kids walked by the tree without seeing me, knocked on the door, got candy and headed to the neighbor’s.

Then, a young woman walked by.  She let a little boy run up to the front door while she stood on the sidewalk.  For some reason, she looked up and spotted me.

“Who are you?” she asked boldly.  She clearly had no concern that I was dangerous in any way.

“The Angel Gabriel,” I told her for no apparent reason.

“Yeah,” she retorted.  “And I’m the Virgin Mary.”

That’s when I learned the difference between being young and old.

Young people can climb trees.  I did that a lot as a child, even falling from the top of a pine tree to the bottom.  I wasn’t hurt, just surprised.  However, after her sarcastic comment, I thought about it.  I realized that I never saw an old (or older) person in a tree.

Think about it: at golf tournaments, where trees provide excellent vantage point above the crowd, they are populated by youngsters.  No one who was older would ever think of climbing a tree there or anywhere else.  Have you ever seen an adult in a tree at a park?  There are plenty of trees there. 

An “adult” would think about appearances.  He would wonder what people thought about him, perched on a branch and placidly watching the world below.  He would think about falling and what the ground might do to him on impact.  He would think about ruining his clothes.  He would think about everything but having fun in the sheer act of climbing and then reaching a destination that once seemed too high or too difficult.

A child would simply climb.  The tree would not be a deterrent, but an invitation.  If the clothes get mussed, who cares?  If someone sees him, that’s the idea.  Wave.  Show off.  Look at me.  Hey, I’m up here.  He would feel powerful.  He would revel in the exuberance of conquering a tree, which seems so large and formidable.  He would feel like an adult without sacrificing his youth.

No adult can do that.  We may want to feel like a child again, as Barbra Streisand sang in “Kiss Me in the Rain,” but, in truth, we know we aren’t.  That time has passed.

The only adult I ever saw up a tree was actor Alan Arkin in the movie Catch-22.   As the protagonist Yossarian, he was naked.  The tree camouflaged his body.  Otherwise, I don’t think a director would have opted for a tree.  It simply looked strange.

After that Halloween night, I have never climbed a tree again.  I even developed a fear of heights.  I miss that part of being young. 

On the other hand, that young woman’s comments did activate my further interest in religious history.  I lost out on tree climbing, but gained an avocation.  I’ve been out on a lot of limbs since that day, but never in a tree.

Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  Many of his essays are posted at

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