May 12, 2012

What Mothers Give.

Photo: Tumblr

Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.

And every day the boy would come and he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns and play king of the forest. He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches and eat apples. And they would play hide-and-go-seek. And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade. And the boy loved the tree…….very much. And the tree was happy.

1977. Running and dancing around the great willow tree that canopied my backyard, I sang, “…we must believe in Magic! If you believe in Magic, you have the Universe at your command…” I knew then anything and everything was possible for those who believed.

But time went by. And the boy grew older. And the tree was often alone. Then one day the boy came to the tree and the tree said “Come, Boy, come and climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and eat apples and play in my shade and be happy”

“I am too big to climb and play,” said the boy. “I want to buy things and have fun. I want some money. Can you give me some money?” “I’m sorry,” said the tree, “but I have no money, I have only leaves and apples. Take my apples, Boy, and sell them in the city. Then you will have money and you will be happy.” And so the boy climbed up the tree and gathered her apples and carried them away. And the tree was happy.

1981. Barefoot, gathering sweet, delicate wild strawberries from a patch behind our house in the alleyway we shared with a neighbor, my mother would scold me: “Missy Marie, save some for others.” Smiling a devilish grin, I would pick every single edible one.

But the boy stayed away for a long time.. and the tree was sad. And then one day the boy came back and the tree shook with joy and she said, “Come, Boy, climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and be happy.” “I am too busy to climb trees,” said the boy. “I want a house to keep me warm,” he said. “I want a wife and I want children, and so I need a house. Can you give me a house?” “I have no house,” said the tree. “The forest is my house, but you may cut off my branches and build a house. Then you will be happy.” And the boy cut off her branches and carried them away to build his house. And the tree was happy.

1996. One day, a small plastic doll house arrived in the mail with a note attached. “Happy first home. Here’s the money for your down payment. Love, Dad & Marcee.” And with that money, we purchased our “dream home” with a front porch swing in historic uptown New Orleans. Here, our grown up life began.

But the boy stayed away for a long time. And when he came back, the tree was so happy she could hardly speak. “Come, Boy,” she whispered, “come and play.” “I am too old and sad to play,” said the boy. “I want a boat that take me far away from here. Can you give me a boat?” “Cut down my trunk and make a boat,” said the tree. “Then you can sail away…… and be happy.” And so the boy cut down her trunk and made a boat and sailed away. And the tree was happy….

2005. Belongings packed and shipped to the Orient. We flew away to live in the heart of Asia. Monkeys were as common as cats, driving was on the wrong side of the road with the rule that the largest thing on the road had the right of way, and a people and culture that both fascinated and enchanted me. I found the magic felt I had lost long ago.

…but not really. And after a long time the boy came back again. “I am sorry, Boy,” said the tree,

“but I have nothing left to give you——” “My apples are gone.” “My teeth are too weak for apples,” said the boy. “My branches are gone,” said the tree. “You cannot swing on them——” “I am too old to swing on branches,” said the boy. “My trunk is gone,” said the tree. “You cannot climb——” “I am too tired to climb,” said the boy. “I am sorry,” sighed the tree. “I wish that I could give you something—but I have nothing left. I am just an old stump.” “I don’t need very much now,” said the boy. “just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired.” “Well,” said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could, “well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.” And the boy did. And the tree was happy. 

~ Shel Silverstein

2012. Swift hugs and kisses as I share plans to return to far away lands. Tears fall, even though I know one day I will return and sit in the yard where there is now only a stump. All that remains of our great willow tree and recall how the Universe, the guiding hand, conspired to make my life all that it is. “Bold is the ship for Alpha Centauri (the brightest star of the southern sky), nothing can turn it around.”

{In honor of my mother who has given me everything she could and to my beautiful step-mother now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease who never once tried to take my mother’s place, but was my trusted ally and friend.}


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Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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