AP NEWS

MIKE’S LIFE: Unexpected discovery becomes family tradition

January 30, 2019

So, what’s your Wizard Tree?

I know what you’re thinking. And I can assure you I have not been hit on the head.

My hunch is you have a Wizard Tree. You just probably don’t call it that.

Our Wizard Tree is an actual tree. And as far as we can tell, also an actual wizard. It certainly looks like one.

We first saw the Wizard Tree when we moved from Aiken to Charleston. The kids were both a week away from starting sixth and ninth grades, and they were moving from the only home they’d ever known. It was a scary time filled lots of understandable anxiety.

On one of the back highways we were taking during the move, we saw him: A gangly, vine-clad tree, limbs spread wide. We dubbed it the Wizard Tree, and decided the Wizard Tree would be one of our signature milestones whenever we traveled to and from. And so began our tradition.

We made a lot of trips between the two towns as we were moving, and we still thankfully make the round-trip on a regular basis. Sure, we have our usual, typical milestones along the way, such as an interstate truck stop we stop at every time because it is, as my wife once described it, “Just a nice place to stop.” (She’s right. Clean restrooms, an attached restaurant that sells fried chicken so it smells amazing, and a super nice staff.)

But everyone who passes that truck stop knows what it is. I feel confident that most folks pass right on by the Wizard Tree and never give it a second thought. But it’s become a special part in our family trips. It’s always there for us, and it’s a moment of collective family goofy fun.

Every time we pass the Wizard Tree, we as a car always give a high five to him. We remind the kids that he has our back, coming and going.

The kids always look forward to greeting the Wizard Tree. Well, almost always. One time, as we were heading to Aiken with our son and one of his friends, and we approached the Wizard Tree. And, as we always do, we both raised our hands and said, “WHAT’S UP, WIZARD TREE!”

From the back we saw our 15-year-old burying his head in his hands saying, “Ugghhhh!!!! NOOOO!!!” Joe Cool and his SOOOO embarrassing parents.

I glanced in the rearview mirror. As he showed his absolute horror at his awful parents’ nerdy behavior, he still threw a subtle high-five. The Wizard Tree was cool with it.

After we passed it, we explained to his friend about the Wizard Tree. She said, “Cool!” Fun fact: She happily high-fived the Wizard Tree on the way back.

And, yes, I know that it is an exceptionally dorky thing to routinely air high-five a tree. But it’s become our family thing. And I’m sure that your family has something, too. Or there was something when you were a child that was regularly part of your family routine. It’s a fun little comfort food to have in your life.

I don’t know how long the Wizard Tree will be standing. Every time we near it, I get a little nervous, wondering if we will take the turn and see that the Wizard has left his post. Of course, it’s been there for at least four years, so maybe he only looks frail, but is actually like Dumbledore and has a good couple of centuries left in him.

Whatever the case, the Wizard Tree will forever be apart of our family story, as he stood by the road, always there to high-five us on our latest journey. Thanks, Wizard Tree. And may the next 200 years treat you well.

AP RADIO
Update hourly