On a warmish October day, I herded the three kids out to the backyard. I was determined to winterize my garden beds when I didn’t need a parka and mittens. I pulled the bamboo stakes from wilted tomato plants, harvested the remaining unripened tomatoes and peppers (still not sure how I’m going to use them), and crushed the brown stems and leaves into a yard waste bag. Meanwhile, Little Boy and Xena (the dog) had claimed the bamboo stakes.

Then, I dragged out the fireplace ashes to spread on my freshly-cleared garden beds. As soon as I dumped the white ash onto the black soil, Little Boy appeared at my side, transfixed by the dirty dirtiness of it.

At precisely the same instant, Little Girl began sobbing from about 20 feet up in a tree. She had realized that despite all her positive thinking, she in fact could NOT get down.

After listening to her sobbing for a minute and realizing she would not calm down and she would not climb down, I faced the fact that I, myself, must climb the tree and retrieve her. I climbed trees as a child, but I’m the mother of four children now. I’m more clumsy and heavy and my body is much less forgiving of unusual activities and falls. I looked at the slender branches dubiously. As Little Girl sobbed louder, I clambered up.

I alternately pictured falls, casts, and stitches and prayed and imagined firefighters with ladders and cajoled Little Girl down inch by terrifying inch.

I dropped out the tree, lowered Little Girl safely to the ground, and turned around to discover Little Boy up to his armpits in ash.