When Christofer was born, Frank brought home a little pine tree in what looked like a cigar tube. Someone at work gave it to him, some promo or other. We planted it at the house on Apollo Drive (NJ) and dubbed it, “the Chris tree.” A few years later, when the tree was about two feet high, we moved to Connecticut. I couldn’t leave that tree, so I took the chance and uprooted it to plant at the house on Country Farm Lane.
I never thought we’d leave there, but we did, after ten years. The silly politics that go on in a neighborhood just got to be too much. Leaving behind Scottie’s crab apple, Grace’s rose bush, Jamie’s pin oak was hard enough, but they’d all been planted years into living on Country Farm Lane. Chris’ baby tree was different. They’d been born at the same time. By then, it was just too big to uproot without killing it, so we left it to move to the other side of the river.
We watched all their trees grow over the next few years. I always worried a little more about Chris’ tree. The others had been appropriately planted in beneficial spots. I didn’t worry they’d be chopped down. But his (gads, how symbolism actually happens in real life!) had been planted in a precarious place. I didn’t realize it at the time. I was new to gardening, and didn’t think about how big it would grow, how it would overshadow everything around it.
After Chris’ accident, I became a bit obsessed with the health and well-being of his tree. Any sign of disease, fear of it becoming too big and being chopped down, had me worrying. Through the years of his struggle with heroin, I’d drive over to the old neighborhood, just to make sure the tree was okay. As long as the tree was still standing strong, so would he.
Three years, heroin-free. I stopped obsessing over the tree. I didn’t check on it unless I happened to be in the neighborhood. Then Chris died. I was afraid to go see his baby tree. But I did. And still it stood. Too big. A little scraggly. But there.
Last time I was in the neighborhood, it was dark. I squinted in the darkness for the hulk of that tree, and it wasn’t there. Maybe I’d been driving by too fast. Maybe it was a trick of moonlight and starshine. I tried not to think about it.
This morning, at breakfast, Frank said, “Did you see they took Chris’ tree down?”
My heart sank a little. I’d known, but I hadn’t acknowledged. “Yes. I did.”
And that’s all we said. What else was necessary? It was almost…right. Chris is gone, and so is his baby tree. Had it come down any time before his death, I’d have freaked out. Now? It’s sadly appropriate.
I wish I had a piece of it. I’d hang it on one of the beams in my house. Maybe there’s a stick left in the rock wall. Or maybe it’s firewood stacked in the yard. I’m not sure I want to go ask, because I’m not positive what answer I hope to receive.