Wednesday, May 18, 2011


We moved R's tree to our yard in time for Mother's Day. Technically we did it in time for the other Mother's Day...the one I didn't bother mentioning to anyone. That wasn't the intent anyway. This just happens to be a good time of year for moving deciduous trees.

T commented that he would like something ornamental better--something with showy blooms to breakup the monotony in our yard. That wasn't my intent either.

This is an intention-free zone.

Left to my own notions, I never would have purposely planted anything as a memorial to my daughter. I'm not opposed to the practice. I just dread dead memorial plants. And I'm tired of dread.

But this tree was already dead when I found it, burning through its limited resources, waiting for a taxpayer-purchased weed-whacker to come and finish the job. It turns out that I'm more tired of death than I am of dread.

So, I threw caution to the wind, dug the little tree up with a random stick, and planted it in a vacant spot alongside my mom's garage where it stayed until we could plant at the new house.


At my 6-week post-partum visit, the OB ran through the list of questions that mark the route for his daily parade of interchangeable lady parts.

"Are you sad?"

"Uh, yeah."

"I mean, are you sadder than you would expect?"

I swear there was an audible click as the doorway that stood open between me and the ordinary world closed...forever. I may have laughed a little.

What did I expect? A first time mother to almost died and almost lived. I felt like the entire universe had been crammed into the space between my ears and there was no room left for expectations of any kind.

Going on four years since pregnancy/birth/death, aside from the eternal ache of missing R and my white-hot obsession with C, this is the most lasting effect--I lost my expectations.

I can need and hope and want. I just can't expect.

I think this may actually be an improvement.


R's tree started out like any other red maple. The seed landed, down went the roots, up went the cotyledon. When the resources supplied by the seed were gone, leaves sprouted and photosynthesis kicked expected.

It had a lot of siblings, this tree. In the r-selected world of plant propagation, it's all about the numbers. Because, if it can expect anything at all, a tree probably expects dead babies.

Survival is for the seeds that land in a wooded area with the best soil and a little break in the canopy to let in the sunlight. If conditions are right, a red maple can expect to live for close to one hundred years. It's a relatively short lifespan for a tree but, still.

Pressed up against the post of a playground structure (even one as well-meant as this one) with the maintenance crew breathing down its neck, this tree couldn't expect much more than a couple of weeks.

But, you know, fuck expectations.


  1. Abandoning expectations seems to me a step from enlightenment. Even when I think I have no expectations, I end up disappointed and befuddled. R.'s tree is so much bigger than I imagined. I am glad she made her way into your yard. Even though it doesn't have to mean anything, it also is nice to have a place if for a moment, you want it to. Sending love. xo

  2. Oh wow, yep. I'm working hard at this. I find 99 times out of 100, whenever I expect something of someone these days, I end up sorely disappointed. Better to aim low, or like you say, have no expectations at all. I'm certainly getting better at it and more used to it. All part of the new life I lead now.
    We never planted a tree. We have a garden area we sort of made "hers" in the wake of her loss, but I too am scared of tending to something, loving it, then having it die. The parallels were and are too much for me.

  3. I am learning a lot about expectations too.

    I love that her tree was a found tree. That would so work for me too. We were approached by neighbors about putting up a memorial tree in the park, and I just couldn't think about bearing the stress about a tree making it.

    If you 'need' color, you can always plant some flowers under the tree!

  4. 'A first time mother to almost died and almost lived. I felt like the entire universe had been crammed into the space between my ears and there was no room left for expectations of any kind.'

    How I wish that I could write like you. Those two lines just make me ache.

    I try not to expect but it seems it is a hard habit to break.

    I like seeing R's tree there, it looks kind of defiant and proud. Maybe that's to be expected given its near miss with the weed-whacker.

  5. Mmm hmm. I am nodding and nodding. I think I always had low expectations, but basic survival was definitely on the list. Now, that list is even shorter.

    However, I love that tree. I love its story. I, foolishly, planted a "girl garden" last summer, full of pink plants, knowing full well I am a shitty gardener and that we have a 70lb. dog. That garden taught me a lot, again, about reasonable expectations.

    Sending lots of love your way.