By the time a branch appeared the tree was well over nine feet tall. The trunk was wide and bare. There were initials carved years deep proclaiming varying depths of love. The tree was full of leaves and wishes.
"We just found it there," she said. The little girl, a classmate of my six-year-old son, held a bucket in her hand that was wrapped in string and packed full with colorful bits of paper.
"Can we keep it?" asked one of the children gathered around her.
"I want one," said another.
The bucket had been hanging from the old tree by a long piece of string, and the rainbow of hand-cut leaves that it held within, each, in turn, held their own piece of magic — for every single note was a child's wish, grown from whispers and wandering thought, written down with careful hand, and tied somewhat gingerly to the hopes of the wild.
"If you keep it then their wishes won't come true," said all of the parents, more or less, and we told our children to go play in the grass so that we could discuss what should be done, for picking (as we had) the unripe dreams of tender youth was not something to be considered lightly.
"I'll take it back to the wishing tree," I said. "If that's alright."
The others nodded and I carried the bucket of wishes across the park, a group of curious children skipping at my side, and together we reached the tree and looked long upon it.
"It was tied right here," said the little girl. "I could reach it."
The tree did not seem the obvious choice for the hanging of anything, for it was still as it was described before, and not much had changed during the minutes that followed, but who am I to decide which tree may dream the dreams of children? The choice had been made by those that made it, and we would respect it accordingly.
I assigned each child a turn at wrapping the string as high as they could, until at last the two ends met, and there, against the trunk so wide and bare, we pinned, once again, the wishes of children we did not know, just as we had found them.
We walked back into the world much as we had left it, but a little less wishless and far more full of wonder.