The Family Tree

This is my one hundredth posting. The rings of thoughts circling my mind are now Living in the Gap. Today I’m a bit of an emotional wreck, I sit in my backyard, commiserating with my beautiful magnolia tree, deeply rooted in the western corner. This is the space I return to, time after time, to think, to lament, to listen. Today I seek the soothing presence of my beloved tree, who assures me, “all is well, all is well, all is well.” 

When I consider of the layers of stories this tree has witnessed, I dissolve into her past, viewing life from a loftier perspective. I believe she found fertile ground before the neighborhood was conceived. She started her life in the midst of a prune orchard, wide open, and free. When the contractors marched onto her land, the ground was subdivided, and foundations were laid. Families in search of shelter formed a simple but solid community. She knew who my good friends would be before I did, she enticed them into the neighborhood, so they could find me. 

This tree watched over me in grade school, as I roamed the streets at midnight, accompanied by a gaggle of silly friends, armed with stolen toilet paper, and mischievous intentions. We would decorate the houses of the boys we liked with our long white streamers, then run squealing back to the safety of our family room, sleeping bags, and popcorn. We were spoiled, naive, and innocent but the tree knew better. She must have observed the young girl down the street, sneaking out after dark to rendezvous with a boy, because her parents did not approve. She married him years later, had two kids, and set up housekeeping not ten miles away. I used to be her best friend but now I realize the tree knew much more about this girl than me. 



This tree was part of my girlish dreams, my secrets still deeply rooted in her soil, permanently stored in her rings of knowledge. This tree lived a few blocks away from my childhood home but her tall branches kept me in view. She stood silent, resisting judgement, a sentinel in the night. Like the world, she too has experienced periods of creation, and destruction. A witness to generations of trick-or-treaters, neighborhood parades, and family celebrations, but also death, sickness, and the dismantling of families. As our lives branched out into the world so did our tree. I left the neighborhood for a while, ran off with the boy I loved, lived as far away as Kansas, but the tree never forgot me. When she called me home I came running. We bought the house with my beloved tree in 1990 and four weeks later we brought home our third child, a baby boy, named Anthony Joseph Oreglia.

She is not a neutral member of our family. She is a nobel witness, alive, and vital but rarely paid homage. This tree has hidden easter eggs, our safe base for freeze tag, shaded our playhouse, and became our centurion during backyard campouts. I have turned to her trusted presence for most of my life. We had to cut off one of her branches when we were expanding our nest. She didn’t make a sound but I know we wounded her. She was a christmas present one year, as we built a fort in her sturdy branches, and she became my children’s refuge for fifteen years. The names of their loved ones carved in her branches. She shaded tables at graduations, birthdays, and holidays. She held my children in her arms as they watched the neighbors dog kill a lost kitten that wandered into their yard. Both the tree and the children were traumatized. She has joined us for numerous dinner parties, as we sit beneath her majestic branches, our voices drifting into the wee hours of the night. She is as familiar as a wine glass in the hands of our friends, she is embedded in our memories, her presence invaluable.

I am a little nostalgic today, as my son Tony, prepares for an extended journey. He will be living in Australia for the next year and a half. I can not really think about his departure without tearing up and losing my composure, so I ignore the calendar, and the shrinking days to this arduous goodbye. He will grow as a man during this time. He will have many experiences that I will not witness and this causes an ache deep in my heart. I trust this young man to direct his own life, to seek out new challenges, and to follow his own destiny. He is ever so compassionate, capable, and strong. I will miss him more than he will ever know. I worry that our family cat will have passed before he returns. In two years he might have a new niece or nephew to love. I will miss his passion for life, his noble influence in our home, and our early morning chats over coffee. Tony has grown up in this house, there is not a place I can turn, where a memory of my son doesn’t come to mind. 

It was our beloved tree who watched in horror as this young man mounted his bicycle in our driveway, rode through an occupy rally in Oakland, crossed the Carquinez Bridge, and climbed the Mayacamas Mountains by moonlight, ending up in Clearlake after a twenty-three hour solo ride. No one knew but the tree. He has an adventurous spirit that will not be tamed. I sit quietly beneath the family tree, silent, strong, and centered. I hear her whisper in the breeze, “all is well, all is well, all is well.”


Above is a video of an Easter celebration, we're playing games under the shadow of our beloved family tree.


Now accepting condolences in the comments...

You might also enjoy: On the Outside Looking In or How do we say goodbye?

Comments

  1. What a great homage to your tree. I could really picture it before me.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and responding! I'm so glad my words gave you a glimpse of our beautiful magnolia - she is a splendid sight. Your words are greatly appreciated.

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  2. Please do accept my condolences - my elder duaghter, who spent her junior year of college in Nagasaki, accepted a job with a language firm in Kumamoto, Japan after she graduated from college last year. She's been in Japan since July & loves it. She is unlikely to return permanently to the states. But this is really the goal - we reach them what they can & then let them fly.

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    1. Thank you Carol for your kind words of sympathy! I am doing so much better and thank God for Skype! He is settling into the Australian way of life and having a ball. I agree, this is the goal, just wish they flew a little closer to home. Thanks so much for reading and responding. I appreciate your comments.

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  3. I'm not near the stage of life where my kids move out - but condolences to you on it - but so exciting for him to have the adventure!

    And I love the picture you paint of the tree - all it has seen. Beautiful.

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    1. Thank you Louise for reading and responding to this post! I say take time to enjoy the little ones while they are with you, they fly the nest oh too soon! Tony is loving Australia, can't wait to Skype with him tonight at family dinner, seeing his face is a comforting sight. Thanks again for your kind words! Read on...

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  4. I can't help but see a parallel for you and the tree. There are many more memories to be made. And so many to be remembered.

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    1. Hi Anna, I hadn't really thought about the parallels before between me and the tree, but now that you mention it, I can see. When Tony left I felt a little like my tree must have felt when we cut off one of her limbs! I know I'm such a drama queen, as my kids will say, but I felt "cut off" from my boy. Thanks so much for reading and responding, and I agree, we have many more memories to make. Read on...

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  5. What a beautiful, beautiful tribute!

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  6. Hi Lisa, thank you for your kind words. Strong emotions run through this post and clearly you felt them. Thanks for reading and taking the time to respond. Read on...

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  7. This is lovely. I recently attended a writing workshop and the instructor had us picture a tree from our lives and then do a writing exercise where we speak for that tree and go from there. If we think back, we can likely all recall how something as vital and natural as a tree has influenced our lives somehow. Wow. Australia must be exciting for him, but so so far. So glad you have modern and immediate technology, whereas years ago there would be snail mail.
    What a sweet and meaningful post for this link up.

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    1. Thank you Kerry for reading and responding. I've only been to one writing workshop but it was disappointing. I felt a little like cattle being herded in and out. A smaller venue might be more helpful. If you have anything published - blog, article, book - please pass on the link. I'd love to read. My son is loving Australia, having a fabulous experience, thank God I have my tree! Thanks for your kind words...read on.

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