Saying Goodbye to the Magnolia Tree

The highway department has made the decision they’re going to widen Hwy 42, the road in front of Mama’s house, from a two-lane to a divided four-lane.  For years we’ve wondered when that would happen.  Even when I was a girl and we lived in Daddy’s homeplace that was built in 1880, we knew it wouldn’t pay to renovate that house that was situated too near the road that had once been dirt.

So when I was in eighth grade, that old two-story farmhouse was cut in two sections and moved back on our farm to reveal the new brick ranch that had been constructed behind it.  While our expansive lawn was new, the magnolia tree near the road was old and had most likely been planted by my grandmother.  Now, that tree is in the path of the road widening project and will be destroyed for the sake of progress.


This is a small thing to complain about compared to what some people will give up, including those families with loved ones buried in the Shallow Well Church cemetery.  The road project will require 200 of the 2200 graves to be moved.  Fortunate for us, this will not impact our family’s sites that are just out of the reach of the expansion, but others will experience the sacred ground of a family member’s resting place being disrupted.  We all wonder if this highway project is as necessary as they claim, and some also wonder about the politics of which roads are widened and who are the ones that really benefit.

But for now, my concern is with losing that magnolia that has been part of my life since my earliest memories.  It was the backdrop for family pictures when we were dressed in church clothes and Mama took the photos using her Brownie camera.  At Christmas, we’d gather branches and use the shiny green leaves to decorate our mantle.  For me, the lemony smell of the blossoms will always be June in the South.  The large white blooms were used around the punch bowl for refreshments that were served after my high school graduation.

When my sons were little, they played with their cousins under that huge tree in Grandma Rosser’s yard.  Several of her seven grandchildren would climb up in the tree while the others made a playhouse underneath, mostly hidden from the view of their parents.

The magnolia was more than a tree.  It was a place.


When I heard the highway department had marked our yard with stakes to show the road boundaries, I took my iPhone and made pictures.  I thought about how Daddy’s mother had probably planted that tree and had marked time by how much it had grown; “I remember when we planted that tree back when  . . .” and she would call up an event that happened around that time.  There were some trees that were even larger than the magnolia– like the walnut and pecans.  But they had the practical function of providing nut meats for the family and shade to the house before air conditioning.

The magnolia was the crowning glory of that yard with its purpose to delight with year-round color, intoxicating fragrance, and symbol of Southern beauty and belonging.  I’ll miss that tree and all the years of joy it brought to our family.


Mama’s once expansive lawn with markers for the road boundary

How about you?

What changes have you experienced that were forced on you and altered or took away something you valued?

How did you handle your loss?

Did you have the opportunity to say “Goodbye”?






10 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye to the Magnolia Tree

  1. I am so sorry they are cutting it down. Wow and moving all of those graves. I’m wondering if it’s really necessary too. Can’t they go up a few more hundred feet to bypass the tree and graves. I love magnolia trees myself and my grandma had one too. Losing it is almost like moving in a way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Leslie,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I think many people in my hometown have challenged the highway department’s decision. They’re a big force to go up against. I like your observation that “losing it is almost like moving” because it does change the place, as if your actual location has changed. Glad to know you share the love of magnolia trees.
      Best to you,


  2. Good morning, Connie. Reading your words I sense the true meaning of home. Life truly is what we make of it with His guidance and help. I will be pondering this post as I visit my in-laws this weekend. All the grandparents have gone to Heaven, and there is a heaviness. Thank you and God bless your day, friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Julie,
      Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. Home has so many levels of meaning–over time and over relationships. I didn’t know my Grandmother Rosser who died three months before I was born. Some of that homeplace had a void in that I didn’t know the one who’d been at the center of its creation. I hope you’re able to discern ways that your family’s heaviness might be eased.
      Blessings to you, too, friend,


  3. Thanks for helping me remember so many wonderful memories. I still hope there is some way to save this tree as it has withstood many storms and a reminder that with God’s strength we can too. I’m blessed to be able to enjoy the farm with all the changes through the years it’s still home. Thankful for the sacrifices out grandparents made for us to be able to continue making memories there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Peggy,
      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. I’m with you on hoping something will happen to save that tree. I like your analogy of the tree withstanding the storms, holding strong and reminding us of God’s strength.
      I’m grateful that you and your family have stayed there over the years and allowed my family to keep coming back, our children making memories together as cousins. I have a strong image of them playing in that tree when they were little. Wish our grandkids could play in it as well.
      Yes, it is something to think of our grandparents and all they did to make our farm possible–through some very lean years. Wish we’d known them.
      Blessings to you, Little Sister,


  4. Connie,
    We are lead to believe that progress is road construction. There may be a little forethought from the old days when people built their homes back off the road. Progress may not have been the reason. The tree is yet one place to be held in your memory. After many years, and all the new has passed with the construction, there will be new memories of the new look. The new memories may not be yours but will live until the next change. The citizens of Polk County NC are fighting the “improvement to 108. They may have a case to stop progress. Great read and you are blessed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey John,
      Thanks for reading and sharing your insights. It is interesting to think about how progress has impacted the landscape over the years. And you’re right, that after this change to the road in front of Mama’s house, there’ll be new memories for folks riding down that road.
      Best to you,

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think that we should be good “tree huggers” and protest the removal of this famous landmark!! H I wish it had not had the graceful lower branches removed. James W. was afraid that someone might hide out under the tree and try to hurt Mama.

    Liked by 1 person

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