I planted the tree when it was merely a sapling, in honor of my daughter’s twelfth birthday, to acknowledge the start of her teen years. She was embarking on her thirteenth year, so the hope was that the two of them could grow big and strong over the years together. Once she grew up, the hope, too, was that this tree would welcome her home on her way up the driveway once she found her footing and took off into her life, magnificently.
Oh, how that sapling struggled! It was planted on an improbable lump of soil not far from the house. I often fretted, wondering about the metaphor I’d arranged as I saw the trunk split, the tree barely eeking its way through the transitions, season to season. I augmented it with annual fertilization, hoping for a magical cure.
Finally, that pin oak gained its footing. The scar on the trunk healed and there were signs of survival. It seemed more comfortable, more in command of its place on this earth. Then it began to flourish.
In the past eighteen years, almost imperceptibly (once the drama ended), the pin oak has matured into a lovely, elegant tree. Healthy. It embraces the sky. It makes me think of her, my daughter, and there’s only wonderment.
Of course, oaks being oaks, you always fret a little on the springtime side of a hard winter when the branches remain stark against the sky the longest. The willows are the first to show signs of life, with the subtle change of hue as their branches redden. Then the bushes bud out, and the smaller trees. They flower, then burst into spring. But the hardwoods are hold-outs. They look quite dead until they aren’t. At last, there are buds, tiny ones, and then, oh-so-slowly, the buds open. The leaves are maddeningly tiny until one day you suddenly realize that, boom, the pin oak is in full leaf.
This is the spring when I most noticed the taunt of that tree, the tantalizing reveal of its beauty. How apt that this, too, is the spring when my daughter finished her long and difficult education to enter the law as a public defender, and began planning her wedding.
As I said: one day you suddenly realize: the pin oak is in.