Saturday was the official commencement of the boys swimming education. Perhaps late for Dev...perhaps a lifetime too early for Ly, but nevertheless, we were there. You may remember when I signed up it was slated to be an 8 a.m. class. So NOT cool. 8 a.m. on Saturday? That's like asking me to eat lima beans for dessert. Or beets. But then the instructor called on Monday night last week to inform me that the class had so many people sign up that they were creating a second class, and since we signed up early would we rather come to the 10 o'clock class? Well. Duh. So it became more of a fruit and yogurt parfait. Right on.
So of course, the boys were up at 5:45 on Saturday morning. Lazy things. Nevertheless, we weaved between boxes and garbage bags, evidence of our upcoming move to a duplex (a yard! bedrooms for all! an entire basement for the damn cat box!) and had a leisurely morning of cartoons and mama's French toast and fruit smoothies. And then there was this sound. The electric grinding whirring sound that does to my stomach the exact same thing that the sound of a dentist's drill does to it. It was a chainsaw...and it was close, way too close.
Dev beat me to the window. "Mom, they are cutting up our tree. Why are they cutting up our tree?" I gasped a little to see the men hanging from the tree just outside my window. "My" beautiful cherry tree was coming down in large chunks. Quickly. I gulped. "Maybe he was just getting too close to the power lines, honey." It was hopeful. But somewhere inside of me I knew it was a lie. We loaded into the car and the three of us sat there mesmerized by the sight of branches dropping, like the sick sight of hair dropping to the floor in preparation for some horrendous brain surgery. Dev started to whimper. I started the car. "Mommy, please, we can't leave our tree!" I knew there was nothing to be done. The tree belonged to the realty company, not us. I knew there had been some plumbing issues for the lower floors, and in all likelihood the trees roots were wreaking havoc with the building's plumbing. "We are going to be late if we don't go now." I lied. Class didn't start for another 45 minutes. "I'll tell you what happened when you call me from Daddy's house tonight." We paused at the drive and we all took one long last look over our shoulders and then I forcefully shook off the sad feeling washing over my body. "Swim Class!"
We soon found ourselves marching up the rather intimidating front walk of the high school where the classes are held. The building loomed large in front of us and as we entered the building I couldn't help but think of a prison movie with the architecture of the interior. "I'm sure it is better when it is full of kids." I said to no one in particular.
The boys both pressed close to me. "I don't think I'm ready for high school, Mommy." said Dev.
"Yeah, me too."
A lovely woman paused long enough to tell me that the pool was up the stairs and off to the left. We passed through the cafeteria to the stairwell she seemed to have indicated and began wandering to the left. "Mommy, aren't we going to swim?" Elyas murmured. "Yes, m'love. First we need to find the pool." We wandered for a good five minutes before I saw a light in an office. The custodian. He was very friendly and showed me where we had gone wrong. There had been a set of stairs in the cafeteria we had passed on our way to the second set. We back tracked, finally on the right track. Class commenced and they began dividing the children into groups, first by their level of fear of the water then by what they actually knew what to do. It didn't surprise me on the first pass to see my children at opposite ends of the pool...Dev on the "A little fear is a good thing, kiddo" end and Elyas on the "Water doesn't bite, sweetheart" end. About halfway through the class Elyas started wailing that he wanted his mommy. Mommy bravely sat on the bleachers and cried silently.
After drying off and warming up, I gave them both giant hugs and told them how proud I was of them for listening to their teachers, doing their best, and finishing what they started. I broke one of my own rules and carried Elyas to the car while he hugged my neck tight and kissed my cheek, repeatedly. I dropped them off at their dad's house and returned home to my monumental task of readying my home for the move the next weekend.
The tree was indeed completely gone. I ran my hand over the rugged stump and sobbed a little. Very few people know the comfort that tree had given me through the hardest time of my life, how I had laid on my bed and talked to it when there was no one else to talk to and how I felt like it heard me too. How just days before I'd told it as I drifted off to sleep that I was sorry to be moving, that I would miss it terribly and that I hoped the cherries would come in better next year. No more cherries, for me or anyone. Not from that tree.
I worked hard all day. I packed up and intensely cleaned two rooms. I broke the news to Dev that the tree was gone on the phone that night. Elyas got on the phone finally and said
"Mommy, why did they cut down the tree?"
"I don't know honey. I guess there was a reason. It makes me sad though."
"Why? It was a nice tree. Don't you think it was a nice tree?"
"No, Mommy...I mean why? What did the tree do?"
My baby thought it was retribution for some rotten act. For my child obsessed with death as it is, I was dumbfounded as to what to say.
"Nothing baby. I...sometimes things just happen, I guess."
He gulped a little and I wanted so desperately to hug him. "I love you mommy. Will you sing to me?"
A year and a half ago, our family, as it was, as they had always known it, died a sudden and painful death...and since then every loss however seemingly insignificant hits hard and painfully. I sat at the window and stared down at a stump in the yard. It seemed almost cosmic that they had done this as I packed up our life to move on from this first place of life lessons after that death, this place where our love and skills grew as a new and different kind of family. I thought about telling Elyas that before we swam we had to find the pool. Indeed, that is what we had done here. We spent some time finding the pool, testing our skills to see which end of the pool we belonged in, and crying a little bit when it was uncomfortable and scary. I threw a few more things in a box as I said goodbye to the tree that had sheltered me and marked the spot. I guess it is time for lesson #2.