I ran by our old house today. They had a fire going, smoke wafting from the chimney pipe. Over the fence, I saw that the fig had grown at least another 10 feet, and I wondered how long has it been.
The fig gave me such exasperated heart ache while I was there. It was like a misunderstood teenager who had discovered Sylvia Plath and fought desperately against my loving care and patient understanding.
Its first year was so uneventful as to both leave me perplexed by and, later, appreciative of, the eventual breakdown. It branched into two twin trunks, but grew modestly and straight, so quietly that I let it fall into the blind spot we parents sometimes have for our model children, the ones who fool us by their responsibility and maturity into false ease.
The sibling trunks had a falling out in the second year, so much so that this family tree threatened to bring down the neighboring vines. One morning, I stepped out onto the deck with my coffee and through the rising steam saw that the smaller trunk had thrown itself onto the ground, willing its leaves to claw itself away from the other. Oh, can't have that, I thought, and Oh, brother, there is no need for drama out here in my get away from it all.
I twined up the moper to the model, and by the end of the month they had rebelled in cahoots and thrown themselves both down, nearly toppling the service berry, who in their defense, was rapidly becoming my poorly hidden favorite. I tied them both to the fence and said, 'There.'
Another year passed, and to my great regret, I had washed my hands so cleanly of it that I was horrified the next winter to see that the twine had eaten into their trunks, and I ruefully cut the rope from their torsos, leaving obvious scars, which they wielded at me like constant reminders. I am so sorry, I said. I really was, too, but now I would never hear the end of it.
I wanted to argue that scars were very hip at the time. They were having none of it. The moon is scarred, too, you know. Not the compelling mythology of heroic deed or spurned love jagged lines cut flatteringly down a cheek, but pockmarked symmetry torn from the nose and forehead and scalp. You can't win. No one gets doe-eyed over body craters.
The last year, I saw glimpses of a beautiful tree, with perhaps the subtle threat of magnificent relapse. We ate the sum of her flowers, and I caught myself drifting away from maternal vigilance. And then, I abandoned the tree. Though I said out loud and often how proud I was, it was still an abandonment.
It is not my house, anymore, so I can only get so close. But I saw the tree yesterday, and it had grown, nearly unrecognizable over these 3 and a half years. Long and graceful and lovely and whole. Scarred and dolorous and fragile and unbound. I don't know where to put my hands anymore.