As soon as school was out on Thursday afternoon we would pack up the car and head toward Palestine (a.k.a. the east Texas “holy land”, as my dad, G, would call it), about 3 hours away. In those days, we only got Good Friday and the day after Easter off from school, and so we’d make the best of what little time we had to see Mom Pearl and Daddy Hub, and Pop and Granny, and a mess of aunts, uncles, and cousins. But what made the trek extra special was getting to drive through the Dogwood Trails.
Every spring, among the pine and pecan trees of east Texas, shone the white blossoms of what we called dogwood trees, although, compared to Georgia dogwoods, they more closely resembled dogwood bushes, for their trunks and branches were gnarly and bent, and seldom reached more than 5 or 6 feet tall. And because of that, you might conclude that everything must not be bigger and better in Texas after all. But you’d be wrong. For the legend of the Texas gnarly and bent dogwood lends itself to the biggest story ever told. You see, Texas legend says that the wood used for the cross of Jesus’ crucifixion was from a dogwood tree, and that forever after the dogwood was cursed so that its stature was small and bent and unable to ever again be used to fashion a cross. And that’s why its blossoms form a cross, with their tips scarred like nail prints and blood stains, and why its center resembles a crown of thorns, and how their stark-white color means we’re washed whiter than snow.
So each year we’d drive through the Trails and marvel at their beauty and remember anew what Christ had done for us. And each year, on the way back home, we’d stop on the side of the highway and “borrow” two branches from a blossoming tree: one for me to take to school on Tuesday and share the love of Christ through the legend of the dogwood, and one for G to plant so we’d have one at the house to enjoy. But the soil was different in south Texas, and, although he tried year after year, G was sadly never able to get one to survive. And now at Easter when I see those dogwoods a-bloomin’, I remember G and Mom Max and Daddy Hub, and how they loved Jesus…and how He loves us.