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By John McDonnell


“Mom, you’re a 55 year old woman. What are you doing up in a tree?” Lauren Summers could imagine her daughter Andrea’s tone of voice, the shock and disapproval ringing in her ears.

It was true, though, she thought. Anybody would say the same thing if they came along and saw her -- “Hey, lady, what are you doing up in that tree?”

Lauren was sitting on a tree branch 30 feet in the air, nursing a badly sprained ankle and trying not to panic as the sky darkened and the sun set behind her. She felt pain from her ankle, but the pain of embarrassment was worse. Not only was she stuck in a tree, she had trespassed on someone’s property in order to get up in the tree. On top of that, she had climbed the tree in a summer dress, which was shredded like confetti from getting caught on some sharp branches. This is pretty bad, she thought, and it can only get worse.

Things had come to this point because of Andrea. It was her fault, that’s what it was. Lauren was living her life in southern Virginia, muddling along after her second divorce, just trying to keep things on an even keel, and then Andrea, her successful lawyer child, developed an obsession with history. Maybe she needed a hobby after her own divorce, or maybe she was bored with her career, who knows? The bottom line was that Andrea joined a historical organization, decided to research the area in the countryside outside of Philadelphia where her mother grew up, and then found out that the old Billings Estate where Lauren had played as a child had fallen into disrepair and -- well, by that point Andrea had a cause, which was to save the Billings mansion from being torn down by a developer, and to have it declared a historical landmark.

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