Indrek Koff. “Our Big Tree”

Reading sample

A big tree grows in my grandparents’ backyard. The tree is so big that not even my dad can get my ball down from it without using a ladder. Still, when we all hold each other’s hands, we can make a circle around the tree and hug it.

When my grandma was just a little girl, she and Aunt Ella would pretend to be birds who had a nest in the crown of the tree.

Great Uncle Toomas wanted to build a bench under the tree so he could have a good spot to sit and think, but he died before he could ever get around to building it. Now, he sometimes peeks down through the leaves at the top of the tree to watch us sitting and thinking in the grass below.

When the wind blows really hard, our big tree sways back and forth and lets a few leaves drop to the ground, but the tree itself won’t fall down because it’s so strong. It’s even stronger than Dad and Grandpa and my big brother put together.

I saw an old picture of my great-great grandfather. He was sitting under the tree and playing an instrument that has many tiny buttons on it. There was a big white dog sitting next to him, too. When I get older, I’m going to play Daddy’s instrument.

One time, lightning was about to strike our tree, but I guess it started to think: “My, my—what a pretty tree! It’d be a shame to break it.” And so, the lightning struck the ground in middle of the field with a terrifying ka-boom instead. Grandma herself told me.

When my big brother’s friend comes over, they hide behind the tree and defend us from enemies.

There’s a hole in our tree. My brother thinks it’s the enemies’ bullet hole. But Mommy told me it’s the kind of hole that you can whisper your secrets into.

One day, my big sister hid a secret note in the tree. She never found the note again, because it was so secret.

When the moon shines at night, our tree’s shadow grows as big as a giant, and sometimes, it knocks on Grandma’s bedroom window. Luckily, it’s not an evil giant, but a good one.

Last summer, our cat Minnie scurried up the tree, but couldn’t get back down again, because it’s much harder to climb down than it is to climb up. Dad brought out the big ladder and rescued Minnie, but she ran away and hid in the tall pine trees as soon as she got down.

I want to climb our big tree, too, but I’m too little, since even the lowest branch is still too high for me to reach. So, all I can do right now is throw my ball up there.

Old Sander planted the tree so long ago that no one even knows when he planted it for sure. And the tree bark has wrinkles in it that are even deeper than Grandpa’s wrinkles.

One day, a big hawk was perched in our big tree. As soon as we got too close to the window, though, it flew away. If I see the hawk again, then I’m sure I’ll recognize it.

Sometimes, Daddy goes to lie down under our tree and stare at the clouds through its branches. But he can’t lay there for very long, because we go and tickle him and he starts chasing us, because we like to play tag together.

Our tree is red and yellow and green every fall. But every spring, it gives us sweet juice to drink.

Every once in a while, the dog who follows the lady who comes around and sells us eggs goes and pees on our big tree, but we don’t mind because the rain will wash it away again.

Grandpa’s old tractor is parked under the tree. I like to put on grandpa’s cap and pretend I’m a tractor driver.

When I grow up, though, I’ll be allowed to drive the tractor for real and do work with it. And to touch the computer. And to push all the buttons on machines that I want to push.

By then, I’ll be so tall that I’ll be able to see over the top of the tree and spot the evening train as it whooshes past. Then, I’ll be able to tell whether Mommy is on the train and if she’s waving to me.

 

Translated by Adam Cullen