the tree

In April my sister called to tell me that my mother’s tree was gone, that my father had toppled it.

That towering white pine dominated the backyard for years. It was grown from a sapling Mom had transplanted from the north woods. There’s the tale my dad tells of how, after the tree’s top was severed in an ice storm, my mom tied up one of the lower branches, and it grew to become the new leader as the tree grew straight and strong. That knee-high tree grew taller and fuller, just topping our heads as the fine-needled backdrop in one series of family photos. Through the years after I was gone it loomed larger. The grass beneath the tree dwindled as the ground filled with dropped needles. My parents’ dog would go out and lie in the pine straw and come back covered in pitch.

I can understand my father’s fatigue of the thing. He lived closest to it, after all. Our resentment of his action is at a remove. We are only thinking of the story of it and of its loss from the skyline, as we walk around the corner from my sister’s house.

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