Two years ago, just about this time in early October, I wrote a post called the Tree of Life and dedicated it to my son. It was on a day similar to today, the onset of autumn and days filled with deep, healing breaths of cool, crisp air and the beginning of falling leaves. I stood this morning in my kitchen, staring out the window, with a steaming cup of coffee in my hand and watched a leaf fall from the large Maple tree that sits outside our house. That same scenario, an autumn leaf falling from a tree was the spark that got me to my keyboard two years ago to produce what is one of my favorite posts on this site.
My kids both have milestone birthdays coming up in November. My son will turn thirteen and finally be a teenager and my daughter will turn “sweet sixteen”. I’m so proud of these kids and what they’ve become. Of course, what responsible, loving parent isn’t proud of every step forward their children make in life? But also, like many of you reading, years of guiding our kids in so many directions can take a deep toll on our levels of patience, understanding and compassion.
I’m not always at my most compassionate these days. My wife Kim used to say I had “the patience of Job”, whoever Job is… and she was right. I did and many days I still do. But I’m also a “You’re injured? Wrap a bandage around it and quit moaning”, kind of parent. Last evening my son was an absolute train wreck after weeks of seventh grade classes, daily football practices, Boy Scout events, and on top of that not feeling well. I wasn’t mean or angry with his “call for help”, but I certainly didn’t offer up what would have been most helpful; a strong hug from Dad and some therapeutic compassion. We got home about 8:30 pm and he laid down directly on the mattress of his unmade bed and was asleep in minutes.
Children are resilient little beasts and this morning, all was well again and he was mostly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as much as a twelve-year-old can be at 7:00 a.m. in the morning. Shortly after the kids left for school, I stood by that kitchen window, with my steaming cup of coffee and watched that leaf fall. It reminded me of my Tree of Life post and reinforced to me that although my kids may be rapidly approaching adult hood, they are still just kids who are trying to find their way in the world, trying to please their parents and teachers and friends and looking for guidance from the adults in their lives.
They are kids climbing the Tree of Life in search of that perfect autumn leaf that they can ride to bigger and better things. As adults and parents, we are that tree and though we often have to fight through the storms that life throws at us, it’s those storms that remind us, always in a most timely fashion, when to dig our roots in just a little bit deeper.
If you weren’t a follower back in 2011, here’s my story: The Tree of Life. I hope you enjoy it.
The Tree of Life
Once upon a time there was a tree.
And it grew in a beautiful place in the country.
The tree was tall and had deep roots and solid branches and green leaves.
And it was a proud tree.
One day a boy began climbing the tree.
And he knew that he wanted to climb until he reached the very top.
So the tree carefully guided him from branch to branch, higher and higher.
And the boy felt safe and loved.
The boy continued climbing the tree, a little higher every day.
And as the boy climbed the tree, the tree provided comfort and protection.
Its leaves gave the boy shelter, its branches gave the boy structure.
And its roots gave the boy a solid foundation to build on.
Then one day the boy finally reached the top of the tree.
He was excited and the tree was very proud of how far he had climbed.
But the tree knew that the time had come.
To let the boy go.
So the tree said to the boy.
“My leaves are changing colors and the wind is starting to blow.”
“Find the biggest leaf you see and climb on it and close your eyes.”
“And the wind will take you wherever you’re supposed to go.”
The boy looked to his right and to his left and up above and down below.
And finally, at the very, very top of the tree on the very highest branch.
The boy saw the most perfect leaf he had ever seen.
And he climbed onto the leaf and closed his eyes just as the tree had told him.
Soon the wind picked up and the boy could feel his leaf trembling.
He grabbed on with all his strength to be sure he wouldn’t fall.
And then he watched as the stem of his leaf began to break free.
From the tree that had nurtured him for so many years.
The boy was excited to be free and on his own.
And as the strong wind carried the leaf high up into the air like a magic carpet,
The boy turned around and waved goodbye to the tree.
And it was a proud tree.
Soon the boy was far enough away that he could no longer see the tree.
So he turned back around to watch where the wind might be taking him.
All around, the boy saw the amazing opportunities the world had to offer.
And he settled in for the ride of his life.
The wind carried the boy to mystical places and magical lands.
On exotic adventures and extraordinary challenges.
Through happiness and sadness and love and hate.
And wins and losses and successes and failures.
As the wind carried the boy he felt exhilaration and freedom.
He began to learn to control the leaf and take it where he wanted it to go.
And he grew and gained knowledge and insight and experience and wisdom.
And felt as if he could fly forever.
But eventually the boy grew weary and wished that his leaf would finally land.
And he remembered what the tree had said when he was first set free.
So he closed his eyes just as the tree had told him.
And the wind began to slow down and change directions.
When the boy opened his eyes, the wind had carried him back to the country.
There was the tree with its deep roots and solid branches and green leaves.
As the boy smiled at the tree, the wind blew one last burst.
And he landed safely right at the base of the trunk.
The boy was happy to finally be on the ground.
He knew that his leaf had fallen right where it was supposed to have fallen.
And when the tree looked down and noticed that the boy had grown into a man.
It was a proud tree.
For my son, who is climbing his own tree and will someday have to be let go.
19 responses to “The Tree of Life”
It’s so good to have a place to come home to.
I really like your steaming cup of coffee-inspired posts.
I drink so much coffee, all day long, I could almost claim that every post I’ve written was steaming cup of coffee inspired! Thanks!
What a lovely tribute to your son and to parenting. These years seem to go by so quickly, even when some stages take forever!
Thanks Michelle! They do go by quickly… and slowly sometimes too… but mostly quickly! 🙂
I remember the year of seventh grade, both my own and my kids’. It’s a tough year. Overwhelming and exhilarating all at the same time. Sometimes I’m amazed that my kids made it to adulthood as well adjusted as they are… what with having me for a parent and all, LOL. But apparently, behind every great kid is a parent who’s pretty sure they’re screwing it up. Now I’m going to go get a cup of tea and enjoy the lovely autumn evening. Thanks for the wonderful post Steve.
Love the “behind every great kid” comment! So true!
It’s one of my favorite of your posts, even semi-reprinted. Your emotional authenticity is an attractive trait in your writing, and I bet in person as well.
Thanks Mikey, always such generous comments from you!
This was just the thing I needed to read this morning. Love this post, Steve.
Thanks Darla! See you next Tuesday!
Love the poem.
Thank you for reading! 🙂
This is gorgeous – the first post and your latest. Thanks for the reminder that our kids are simply kids, finding their way through the maze of life. Well done.
Thanks TM! Always nice to hear from you!
Quite insightful and lovely. (Must be the maple trees and cool weather)
No matter what the age, kids seem to run run run run , crash-falling-falling, then sound asleep. They stretch out, but it’s the same pattern.
This is not such a bad thing ” a “You’re injured? Wrap a bandage around it and quit moaning”, kind of parent” within reason, it prepares kids for life.
(And besides, you are no doubt making sure things are OK out of the corner of your eye…it’s the roots/heartwood of it all)
Thank you! Yes we keep a pretty good eye on them. Try to at least. It’s funny though, if I were to ask him if he even remembered that evening he probably really wouldn’t. As I said, kids are resilient! Thanks for chiming in! 🙂
I just loved this post. You evoke a great sense of place, as well as tell a wonderful story for both older kids and adults. My girls are almost the same ages as your kids, and I’m right there in the trenches with you! Keep posting gems like these!
(BTW, I hadn’t seen anything come across recently…glad you’re still there!)
Thanks for that very nice comment. Glad you can relate, having similar aged kids. That’s what this writing thing is all about, being able to reach people that have similar interests and life experiences. Yeah, I’ve been on a little bit of a “sabbatical”. My real life and work has been busy and just haven’t been feeling it on the writing front. But I’m still here! Thanks for noticing. 🙂
That’s just fine.