By Carmelene Melanie Siani
About five years ago, there was a tree growing outside the window of my home office.
I didn’t know what kind of tree it was but in spring it was covered in soft, cottony yellow flowers.
My then 40-something-year-old daughter was moving to another state with her family and had said, “Mom, why don’t you take that tree?” She’d had it in a huge pot on her patio and when I got it, I un-potted it and planted it in the ground outside the window of my office. There it could block the 110 degree sun and also where I could be in relationship to it—it grew to twice its size.
“Oh, tree,” I’d said, “Remind me of my daughter who has moved away.”
And tree said, “I am happy to do that for you.”
It has been years since my daughter gave me that tree and, since I had that conversation with it, tree has never once let down her end of the bargain. Every time I look at her I see how she has shaded me from the scorching sun and every time I look at her I see my baby, my little girl, my high school cheerleader, my married ever-so-young daughter.
I hated it that my daughter had moved over 1,000 miles away from home, away from me.
But then, that is what our children do from the moment of their births—move away. It seems I’ve seen nothing but their backs as they went forward into the struggle of each new bend in the road, each new river to cross, each new passage to pass through—as they lived their one and only lives, the ones they were meant to live.
I remember how that grief over their constant leave taking had overcome me during a therapy session once.
“No, no! Don’t go!” I sobbed, recalling acutely the deep loss I felt in my body even as my babies were being born.
Strange as it may seem, the particular daughter of the tree with the yellow flowers was a footling birth and I remember with distinction the doctor predicting her departure when she was being born.
“Her little feet are sticking out,” he’d said, adding with a smile, “All the quicker to grow up and run away from mommy.”
How true. How true.
When my daughter left the town in which she had been raised to move out of state, it was really just another version of all those other milestones in her life. The rites of passage that she had faced and overcome, each time moving further away from me to a kind of location of her own.
Every mother knows those milestones.
Every mother feels the sadness underneath the happiness of the first day of kindergarten or the first kiss or the first anything. This was like any of those milestones, except this time there was a moving truck and a whole household of furniture involved. And this time there was something else going on as well.
Soon to be 80-something years old, I would soon enough be facing my own new bend in the road or new river to cross.
That’s the pain and the beauty of this journey with its continual holding on/letting go dynamic that turns us inside out and causes us grief and loss on top of the beauty over and over again.
We are close to each other and then we move away from each other and then we move close to each other again until the final planting takes place.
“Why don’t you take this tree?” I’ll say to my daughter. And the 80-plus year old tree of my own life will be un-potted and put in soil where it will grow soft cottony yellow flowers in spring.
“Remind me of my mother who has moved away, tree,” my daughter will say. And tree will say she’d be happy to do that for her.
And the cycle will continue with birth after birth, leaving after leaving, and tree after cottony yellow tree.
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Editor: Dana Gornall
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