Saturday, October 16, 2010

the name of the tree

Someone walking by our house this morning left us a note with her name and number and the words "the name of the tree."

Aaah yes, the gorgeous tree in our front yard, a Pawlonia or Royal Empress from the aptly-named  When we bought it from the website, it was a mere twig, basically, about 6 inches long.  In the intervening years (5, 7, we can't remember), it has grown and grown and now stands 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide, with a 16" trunk.  It's absolutely stunning.

In the spring, it produces big fragrant purple flowers, like giant foxgloves.

Truly an incredible organism. No wonder people stop and ask us about it, leave us their names and numbers and interest in the name of the tree.

But all day, since I read the note, I have been vaulting from "the name of the tree" back to a Danny Kaye record that my sisters and I listened to a lot when we were kids.  I've only ever met one other person who remembers his telling of The Tale of the Name of the Tree, aka Uwungalema.

I distinctly remember this record and this story in particular being a bit banned in the household, as it would regularly send us into paroxysms of helpless giggling, helpless giggling being frowned upon for whatever reason. I've never really understood why it was so annoying, three darling girls laughing and laughing, although I imagine that once we got started, between the three of us, we could very easily keep egging each other on for hours unless they stuck a pin in it.

Thanks to the wonderful interwebs, I just listened to the story again and it made me laugh til I cried, at exactly the same parts that delighted us so much as kids.  (Martine and for Katherine P-C: you can get it at We just couldn't get enough of the animals misremembering the name of the tree, their bungled nonsensical hilarious attempts at the word, meaningless syllables strung together. For us, this was the very definition of funny. 

Joe says I only think it's funny now because it made me laugh when I was little.  No way, he's so wrong.  It's still funny.


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