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Lauren Prastien, PA

Junior Writer

Lauren is a Zell Fellow at the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program, where she previously completed her MFA in Fiction. Her undergraduate education was in Anthropology at Princeton, where she discovered her passion for talking to, and writing about, interesting people. Her projects have taken her everywhere, from a women’s theater cooperative in Mexico to a hospital’s palliative care unit down the block from where she grew up. Her journalism can be found at Refinery29, Michigan Quarterly Review, and National Ave.

As a Story Terrace writer, Lauren interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below.

The Only Tree I’ve Ever Climbed

Though I was the fastest girl in kindergarten and the undisputed champion of hide-and-seek – thank my petite frame and my willingness to cram myself into a laundry chute – I couldn’t manage to learn how to climb a tree. Naturally, the best tree in the neighborhood was in my back yard. It was an old apple tree, so old that it no longer grew apples but still rained silly pink petals every spring. The tree was low-slung and wide, with thick branches that were bent and crooked into little perches. A perfect climb.

Children from the surrounding blocks would come by to get lost in its branches and pretend to touch the clouds. All I could do was hook my foot into the lowest branch, which was situated at about knee-height and curved around the foot, cradling it like a stirrup, and lean back against the trunk. When it came to pulling myself any higher, I’d freeze.

It was December and we’d spent the evening talking about resolutions when I decided that I wanted to climb a tree. I didn’t even want to wait until January: I was convinced I had to start the year as a newer, better Lauren. A Lauren who climbed trees. But with the tree outside cloaked in icicles the size of my forearm, I had to improvise. Turning back to my house, I saw the answer twinkling through the window: I was going to climb the Christmas tree and take the angel back down with me as proof.

To give myself a head start, I pulled an ottoman over to the tree and stepped up. I could hear my mother talking on the phone in the kitchen as I sucked in a deep breath, grasped onto the branches, and raised my right leg. I should explain now that we didn’t have a real tree. The Christmas tree we used was an environmentally friendly alternative that stood about six feet tall and was comprised of a skinny metal frame covered in little paper pine needles that still turned up in the rug and on the bottoms of people’s feet months after Christmas. This wasn’t a tree for climbing.

The tree swayed, taking me with it as it fell onto the family credenza. A couple of stitches and a firm talking-to later, I never climbed another tree again.

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