Gawd, the Brits have the best words for EVERYTHING! In the American midwest they call them buckeyes. Not to be outdone by the Brits, they have even come up with a peanut butter and chocolate candy made to look like the nut – also called a buckeye. In this part of the world we just call them chestnuts or, if we’re being really fancy, horse chestnuts.
There’s something about chestnuts that take me back to a simpler time – not necessarily a better time, but simpler. Sometimes I wonder if these times were simpler just because I was a child. My parents might have a very different story to tell.
Drilling holes in chestnuts to make necklaces or to play conkers is stored in my memory bank in the same file as wild bicycle chases playing “cops and robbers” and games of hide-and-seek lasting long after dark with the neighbourhood kids.
These games seemed to have met the same fate as the chestnut trees in North America. At one point, 25% of the forest here in the Appalachian range was comprised of chestnut trees. In the early 1900’s a chestnut blight ravaged the forests and now there are very few old specimens left.
I have had two chestnut trees play a role in my life. One was in my hometown
watched over guarded by an old lady called Mrs. Moody. (I couldn’t make up a better name if I tried.) The other is a lone surviving tree by an old foundation up the road from where I live now.
I feel the same way about the chestnuts as I do the bats that also got decimated by a fungus. There are now only two bats on our road which swoop over our heads on evening walks when in my childhood the air was full of them.
I’m wondering if I’m hanging onto these memories because it’s a good thing to wish for survival of a species or if it’s just hard to say goodbye to what once was.