There’s this one gigantic evergreen tree that stands alone in an open field near my house. It is big and tall enough to be the world’s Christmas tree, I always said to my Mom. I truly envied it. It had all the room it could have wanted to grow. All the space it could have ever asked for to flourish and every bit of sky above it to be rained upon and to gain the light of the sun. This tree had pride.
One day while driving by I saw a crowd gathered in the open field. In the center of them all stood a lowly tree stump protruding with gusto from the ground where the tall evergreen used to stand.
I parked on the side of the road and walked over to the crowd, pushing my way to the front. “Where did my tree go?” I offered up to no one in particular.
An older gentleman with heavy brown boots and weathered corduroy suspenders chirped up, “Someone came in the night and took it.” The crowd murmured tiny notes of agreement.
I dropped to one knee, my pants soaking in the morning dew from the ground. My eyes fixed on the stump. It was like someone grabbed the linchpin out from the machine that ran me. The tree was a part of home. When you get off the highway you pass the poorly painted building, you see that crazy lady yelling at her eight dogs, and you gaze upon the magnificent lonely tree. But not anymore. Someone had taken that from me.
The top of the stump was not a clean cut like it had been sawed off. The bark that remained was angled and sharp like it had been pulled into two by the hand of God.
“That’s not what happened.” A little voice no one could hear but me said out loud. As I turned my head I saw a little black haired girl in a white sun dress with pink flowers all over it holding her father’s hand. Her words had been falling on tall ears. Her other hand was holding on tight to an old book that was practically falling apart.
The little girls gaze met mine momentarily before she looked back at her tree. “What do you think happened?” I kept as quiet as I could to try and keep this a private conversation between the obvious child and the little girl.
“I don’t think anything” the girl scowled at the thought that she was only hypothesizing, “I know where my tree went.”
“Okay. I’ll bite little lady. Where did it go?”
“Yup. It had grown all it could here.” She looked over at me for a moment to see if I got it yet. I didn’t, so she continued to explain. “I used to come to this tree every morning and read it this book about the rain forest. Every time I talked about the number of trees in the rain forest the wind blew and the branches swayed. It was my tree but I knew it wouldn’t be forever. One day it would have to move on. Today is that day.”
My eyes blinked uncontrollably. “Why did it have to go?”
“Because it was looking for friends.” She said as a matter of fact.
“But you read to it every morning. Weren’t you its friend?”
“Yup. But I’m a person. It wanted to go somewhere where the other trees were.”
“Like the rain forest?”
“Yup. Like the rain forest. I guarantee you” Her eyes locked in on mine, stolid and true, “You go to the big rain forest and one tree there will look nothing like the others.” She looked back towards the stump. “He had to go find where he belonged.”
“But doesn’t that make you sad? You lost your tree. The place you used to go every morning to read your book.”
The little girl shook her head. “Nope. I feel just fine. He was never my tree. I was just borrowing him from the ground and this ground was just borrowing him from anywhere else on earth it could ever be.”
“But, aren’t you going to miss it?” The crowd started to disperse and the little girl got pulled by her father in the other direction. When I looked up for an answer she was skipping away. As I gathered myself I realized that on the ground next to me now was the little girl’s tattered book. In a tizzy I picked it up and stood to walk towards the father and the little girl.
“Hey!” I yelled, “You forgot your book!” The father didn’t notice my yelling at all as the little girl turned back, but only slightly.
“That’s okay! I was only borrowing it!” she yelled and smiled before turning back around and continued skipping. I turned back to look at the stump, then down once more at my new book, and held it tight to my chest.
Now when I go home I pass that poorly painted building –
I see that crazy lady yelling at her eight dogs –
And I sit down to read about the rain forest and think about that one tree that doesn’t look the same but is right at home. And so am I.