The Last Belt

by Linda W. Curtis

I was 40, and so was my waist, inches, that is. I was now greater in girth than could be accommodated by the end notch of my latest belt.  And so in despair, and before I could justify buying new clothes that I could breath and eat in, I needed to retire an entire row of beautiful belts from my closet.

I loved belts, but with my annual gain of one pound a year, I accumulated a large number. But not ordinary belts, no, many were sleek, high fashion belts that had panache. Some were just pretty woven cords, but some were also hand-crafted leather and jeweled belts. They conjured up memories of someone’s wedding, a graduation, and …my speaking engagements. I was satisfied that if someone were bored with my speaking presentation, then they could at least be distracted by my extraordinary belt.

Parting with my precious belts would be an emotional hardship. I couldn’t give them away to a charity thrift store because I couldn’t risk seeing someone on the street wearing my belt. I would, of course, have to buy it back, and would pay a shocking sum to its owner. And then, the grim thought, what if they wouldn’t part with it? Oh, dear.

Luckily for me, my husband and I have beautifully landscaped home with many trees that appeared to have trunks near my waist size. And I wondered..hmm.

I unloaded my long closet of its entire rack of belts, at least three dozen into a laundry basket, and began my walk outside. At first, I had no idea how to accessorize a tree.  Gradually I saw the tree barks had different textures and subtle colors. The walnut tree, for example, was splendid in a belt made of thin sections of walnut shells strung with leather thongs through the holes. How charming, I thought. Yes, and how appropriate.

The cherry tree was really a clump of three trunks, but that did not deter me.

I wound a sash belt in and around the trunks between a few branches, and voila! A great fit. It was especially nice to color coordinate with the reddish bark marked with white dashes.

The birches, oh yes, what selection did I have for them? Black and white bark would certainly deserve the zebra belt. As I looked through the mass in my basket, I could see a leopard belt as well, and I circled the property three times before I spied the right tree. Not waist high, but way up high on the mighty oak behind the garage where it could be seen from the avenue. A squirrel gave me a startled chatter and bounded away to the upper limbs as approached with our tall step ladder.

I hoped the squirrel was not as frightened as I was, I thought as I placed the ladder against the garage. From there I positioned an 8’ wooden 2 x 4 from the upper ladder step into an angle of the tree limb. Step by step, belt in hand, I rose to the top, and on the very top, balanced myself on the 2 x 4. I focused on the branch and began inching over to the tree.

At last, I wrapped my arms around the tree trunk and belted it in place. But then I made the mistake of looking down. Vertigo set in, my legs began to shake, and I clutched the tree and pressed my face into the bark. An ant immediately crawled onto my nose and remained, waving its antennae, as I waited for my controlled breathing to enable me to venture back down.

Once down, quite light-headed from all that heavy breathing, I realized the ladder was my best friend in this endeavor because some awful vandal might remove the easily accessible belts. So the next 30 belts were placed at least eight feet or so high. Over the next two days I managed to suitably attire all of them, saving the prettiest cummerbund for the tree at the entrance to the driveway. I was expecting my husband home from a three day convention and he was sure to be tired and in need of something cheery.

Sure enough, as I placed the ladder back in the garage, I heard the car in the driveway. Instead of a pleasant hello, he said crossly, “What’s that pink cummerbund doing on the tree in the front yard?”  I answered, “Well, the dressiest belt should to out front, don’t you think? “

Husband replied, “No, I don’t know.” He rolled his eyes. “What’s for dinner?”

Oh, I said, I’ve been so busy, I’ve forgotten quite about it. “Here,” enjoy this.” I said pouring him a glass of wine as he settled into his easy chair and stared unfocused into our back yard.

Not too long after, as I made deliberate sounds of pots and pans clanging in the kitchen, he called to me, “There’s something strange in the garden.” I quickly put the frozen dinners in the microwave and said, “What, dear?”

“Never mind,” he said, “I’m going for a walk outdoors. I think I’ve developed a horizontal flim-flam in my eyes, and they’re only is apparent when I’m looking at a tree.” I would have gone with him, but dinner is a staged work of art. After the frozen dinners were micro-waved, I carefully arranged the separate items on our best dinner plates, and set them in the oven to stay warm. A tray of Oreo cookies went in next to warm as well, since Husband says mine taste better than the ones from the store.

Husband was flustered, red in the face, and could barely speak as he hustled through the door. His lips moved, but no words came out. This was better than I thought. He must be truly appreciative, beyond words. “Oh, I’m so glad you like them,” I said. “ I put a lot of time and thought into getting the right belt on just the right tree.” A sputter, “But why?” he asked.

I never appreciated being asked why I did things. I see myself as a creative sort, and so I answered, “It’s art, dear. Don’t you remember the famous artist Whistler’s quote, ‘Art happens. No home is safe from it’?” He did another eye-rolling and said nothing more as we enjoyed another delicious home meal.

The next morning, after Husband left for his office, I went to my closet and looked in at the vacant space where the belts once hung. And that’s when I saw the box I had carefully labeled, “long gloves.”

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copyright © 2014 Linda Curtis, botanist


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