This I Believe

Michael - Long Beach, California
Entered on January 6, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

The Gum Tree

A group of kids scramble down the path toward Bass Lake. As they approach a narrow, dusty trail, they abruptly stop. In a methodical fashion, each camper takes out a worn-out wad of chewing gum from their mouths and sticks it onto the infamous Gum Tree. From its highest branches above, down to the base of its trunk, the Gum Tree is engulfed in adhesive globs of gum of every color.

Embellishing the Gum Tree is a long, storied, tradition at Skylake Yosemite Camp. I was only eight years old when I first began attending this camp and discovered this gum-sticking tradition. Even though it has been going on such a long time, nobody really knows how it first started. Maybe a group of kids who did not feel inclined to throw their gum in a wastebasket decided to deposit their gum on a tree. Whatever happened, the trend probably, figuratively, stuck for several years and eventually became a tradition at Skylake.

Every year the camp chops down the previous Gum Tree, because trees die when covered by too much gum. However, the tree then becomes firewood for campfires. Although I feel sad for these trees, I believe in the importance of tradition. Tradition connects the past with the present, and ultimately with the future.

Tradition also ensures that things are not lost or die off. Tradition allows you to remember or look back on a snapshot of your life. Without it you would lose the interesting stories that bind you to a time or to a place. Just imagine, Thanksgiving dinner, Hanukkah, Christmas: virtually every holiday, national, religious, etcetera, would not be considered as important as they are today.

Much time has now passed from when I first attended Skylake, at the age of eight, to my current age of 15 but, even after all this time, this small, seemingly trivial act of coating the gum tree cannot be forgotten. Next year, when I go back to camp, I plan on continuing the tradition, and the next summer, and for many years to come. And who knows? Maybe one day my son or daughter will be able to go back to that very same spot and continue this special tradition.