At the MTC church that I attend, there is a large tamarind tree on the right side of the church. The tree was planted when the church was first built in 1964. It's quite likely that none of the founding members of this church are alive.
The tree has grown - towering as high as the church, its beautiful gnarled branches covered with sometimes-bright sometimes-dark green leaves providing shade to that side of the church compound. MTC still follows segregated seating for men & women. This tree is on the women's side - it is possible that the person who planted the tree wisely knew that it would be women who'd need its presence. Providing shade to many a young mother who wished to attend church along with their baby but had to move outside because their babies got restless, this tamarind tree has seen the coming & going of generations of families - baptisms, weddings, funerals. The tree has seen the babies that were calmed under its shade grow into young children often running around it playing a game to "run & catch" or "hide & seek". It has seen them all traipse off groups, in the middle of the church service (as is tradition) to the Sunday school at the Parish Hall on the opposite side of the same compound. That included me and my friends. As children we searched for the tamarind that the tree dropped in summer each year. Ripe tamarind - sometimes with the shell intact, sometimes slightly broken resulting in mildly mud-covered sticky brown tamarind. We often wiped off the mud and put the fruit into our mouth. Oh the pleasure of eating something so sour! Sometimes boys came over to the tree from their side to help knock down fruit for us with stones.
The tree watched as we grew into teenagers, listening quietly to our whispers of crushes, taking in our rebelliousness when we protested our parents' severity. When crushes turned to romance, romance into love - this tree participated in our weddings too, watching as we made our vows inside the same church, to have and hold forever. And later on provided shade for our babies when we brought them to church as young mothers. As harried mothers, it's under this tree that we sat exchanging our trials of new-found motherhood (sometimes when the church service was going on, other times when there was an occasion at church), it's pleasures, it's impact on our lives & personalities. Our children run around the tree now & pick it's brown fruit. And so it goes on. A veritable circle of life right under its protective shade.
This tree has stood the test of time and people. A few years ago the church underwent expansion. From a single storey building, the church grew to a double storey one. The church also grew in width & length taking up much more of the compound. But thankfully the tree remained untouched.
The tamarind tree for me comes closest in description to how I imagine the Faraway Tree to be from Enid Blyton's books by the same name. It is wide and big and comforting.
What a wise tree it must be having observed and absorbed so much over the years. If only it could talk! It could teach a lot of our Parish members to be more Christian; less unforgiving; less selfish - things Christ intended for His Church to be. It could teach us young girls the perils of fledgling romances -broken hearts, broken minds. It could show us that it was love driving our parents' severity. It could show spouses that marriage is a lot about patience, that love is not the same as romance - that it needs working on. It could show us harried young mothers how truly short the years are when our children demand so much from us; how blessed we are to have them - maybe then we'd lament less that we have seemingly lost ourselves when we found Motherhood. It could show a lot of us what we'd be like as old people - cranky, dependent, insecure - but still loving our children just as before. Maybe then we'd be more understanding, loving & kind to our aging parents for whom we "no longer have any use".
I hope one day my daughter too can find shade for her babies under this tree. I hope she will learn from it's wisdom as I have been privileged to.