There’s a tree outside the window of my home office.
I don’t know what kind of tree it is but in spring it’s covered in soft, cottony yellow flowers.
My 40-something daughter was moving to Houston with her family and 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 outside my the window where it could block the 110 degree sun and where I could be in relationship to it.
“Oh, tree,” I said, “remind me of my daughter who has moved away.”
And tree said, “I am happy to do that for you.”
It has been two years since my daughter gave me 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.
“Mom, why don’t you take that tree?”
I hate it that my daughter has moved to Houston, 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 live their one and only lives—the ones they were meant to live.
I remember how grief over their constant leave taking had overcome me during a therapy session about 20 years ago.
“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 said. “All the quicker to grow up and run away from mommy,” he joked.
How true. How true.
When my daughter left her home in Tucson—the home where she had been raised, and then raised her own children—to move to Houston, 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 Houston 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.
This milestone in my daughter’s life marks the time in my own life to be moving away: the time to face 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 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.
Soon enough it will be my time.
“Why don’t you take this tree, daughter?” I’ll say. And the 70-plus year old tree of my own life will be un-potted and put in the 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.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: Elephant archives & Virginia State Parks/ Flickr