Once there was a grand oak tree. It lived in the corner of a suburban lawn, where it overlooked the
gardening tools and bicycles of the Mintz family. The Mintz family loved their oak tree. The children,
especially. They spent countless afternoons in, around and under the tree. They clambered up the
branches, swinging their limbs to tree limb and back again. When the oak tree shed leaves, the children
dutifully piled them tall in the center of the yard, and splashed into the center with a satisfying series of
crackles. And on lazy weekend afternoons, they sat beneath the tree’s shade and lost themselves in
their comic books.
But the tree was unhappy. Years before the Mintz family came to live in its yard; the tree was
surrounded by other, taller, grander oak trees. These trees extolled the virtues of being grand old oaks.
Trees provided shade, oxygen and a sense of austerity. And when they grew too old, they were cut
down and provided warmth. The oak tree, much younger then, did not buy it. Being a tree was boring.
And sure, it was nice when the Mintz family finally arrived, and it was provided a greater sense of
purpose. But the tree felt awkward. The rest of the yard was clean and green, and the roots of the tree
jutted out like blemishes. The branches stretched gawkily into neighboring yards. But there was
The tree, more than anything, longed for a distinctive smell. There was nothing special about the tree’s
smell. So many flowers and herbs are coveted for their scents, but trees do not have this luxury. And
what’s more, the tree knew what smell it longed to emit. On warm summer evenings, the Mintz family
frequently grilled hot dogs in their yard. The air filled with the deep and smoky scent of grilled hot dogs.
It was the greatest smell the tree knew. It wished so deeply that it could be a hot dog, grilling in the
evening, filling the air with its sweet succulence. Sure, this would mean the tree’s lifespan would be cut
significantly short. But the tree understood this, and it didn’t care, not all that much, anyway. It wanted
to bring to the world, and the Mintz family the joy it felt when that smell filled the air.
But, the tree was born a tree. It will live a tree, and eventually die a tree. That’s the way it goes. The best
things, the most embraceable things, are the little things. And for the tree, that was soaking in the smell
of hot dogs in the summer dusk, as kids and fireflies flitted through the lawn. And for the Mintz family, it
was the grand oak tree, which, if they were given the choice, would choose its tree-ness over turning it
into a hot dog any day. And this is a family that eats a lot of hot dogs. So, that’s saying quite a bit.
Hot dogs every night.