My Japanese Maple Tree


Painting our new home all day,  needing a break I went out to the front yard.  It was sticky and hot in June, 1986.  I stepped out the front door in my acid washed jeans and t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off, walking barefoot through the grass I plopped down on the ground underneath a little Japanese Maple Tree.

Big enough to make shade but smaller than the other trees surrounding it, it drew me in.  I laid down on the ground and looked up to the sky through the leaves.  Crimson,  delicate points on them.  I breathed in deeply.  All day long, listening to my mother in law yakking I finally had a little peace.  I felt a sense of ownership, for this was my land.  I owned this little tree on this little piece of land. In the whole, wide, entire world- I now had land.  The sun sparkled through the leaves.  I even felt a ray of hope for my new but doomed marriage.  I noticed the striations in the bark and how they made a pattern going up.  This will be my place, I thought and ran my fingers gently through the strands of grass beneath them, like hair.

“Fly, fly air-o-plane!” I chanted.  I am balancing two year old Madeline up in the air while I lay on my back in the grass.  It’s just warm enough to play outside and the Japanese maple has it’s new spring leaves.  It grows a little every year, the reds of the leaves changing with the seasons, sometimes rusty red, sometimes greenish with a little red and my favorite, the brilliant crimson.  Though the grass is warm on top, the earth below is still a little chilled below.  I love to hear this baby laugh as I throw her gently to the ground, over and over again.  “Airplane, Mommy, airplane!” she demands every time she lands.

Years and years later someone broke my heart.  I had to run to somewhere safe.  I had to leave work, I had to go where no one would talk to me.  The car screeched into the driveway and I tore out of it, running, running till I dropped down to the ground and sobbed.  The Japanese maple had it’s fall colors on, she draped over me, gently and silently.  I rolled onto my back, to my place where I could see the light through the leaves.  Being late afternoon the sun was twinkling because it was almost time to go down. In and out I breathed trying to find peace.  Trying to find comfort.  Trying to figure out why I always loved men that would hurt me some way, whether physically, or emotionally like my current partner.  At this moment I just tried to focus on my tree.  The spindly twigs that connected to the leaves, the slim yet solid base that I had gotten to know so well for fifteen years. The tree comforted me and I laid underneath it till the grass grew cold and damp below me while the sun silently went away.

June again.  It is really, really hot and I am covered in sweat as I lay down underneath my Japanese maple.  Beyond in the driveway is a dumpster loaded to the gills, the moving truck comes tomorrow.  After a weekend of packing, selling and purging with friends and family in tow, I am now alone. It’s time to say goodbye to my friend.  Thank you, I think to myself.  Thank you for being here when I needed to hide or some shade from the sun. Thank you for always providing a sense of familiarity that I needed.  My land, I smiled to myself.  My land that actually belonged to two banks and was not really mine. But that’s what a 26 yr. old  woman thinks, a 50 yr old woman knows better.  And now that I’ve sold it I owe nothing. Thank you for getting me out of debt, tree and land.  The new couple comes in tomorrow.  They are young.  They want to have a baby.  Maybe the woman will play airplane with her baby underneath your red umbrella.  I wonder if she’ll find this place too?  If she will see that the slender tree with the delicate pointy leaves will always be there, firm, solid and strong.