For several years, I wished for a cherry tree: not just any cherry tree, but a sour Montmorency cherry tree that produces the most divine pie cherries you could ever hope to taste.
My Grandma Ellis had a mature cherry tree at the house in town. It almost gave my mother a stroke to find her 90 year old mother on a ladder, leaning forward, eyes shielded from sun by a type of baseball cap with a yarn ball on the top, picking the ones up high because “You kids missed the good ones on the top and the birds were just going to get them unless I picked them.” When her house was auctioned off after her death, I could still picture her perched at the top of the ladder in a thin cotton housedress, or maybe culottes, ankle socks rolled halfway down and sturdy brown low heeled, lace up shoes on her feet.
Last summer, Greg surprised me with a cherry tree from Prairie Garden. We aren’t typically Prairie Garden people, more like Wal-Mart or Rural King shrubs, trees and discount flower types. But this tree was special—it even came with a 1 year warrantee. In other words, if we would faithfully water it, pie cherries were just a few short years away. I named her Cherise and watered her every day for the duration of the summer.
Several weeks ago, Greg called me after his annual review and said that we had been asked to consider relocating for his work. All I could do was grip my coffee mug and stare out the window at that tree. It’s small and hopeful, with the base of the trunk wrapped and branches bare, reaching just a few feet out in any direction. There won’t be a sign of a cherry on it for at least two more summers. And yet, we planted that with the full intention to pick cherries and bake pies that our children and grandchildren would eat. I want to be flexible, have an open mind about living somewhere new and hope that Brenna’s school will be just as wonderful, but I want to keep this life with the cherry tree.
Living in one area for 16 years tends to grow thick roots. Because they lie hidden underground, one can too easily take them for granted, forgetting that the long ties are there, binding the soil to keep it from blowing away in a hot summer wind and spanning great distances to find water. And yet, I find myself peering down below and surprised as to where they have formed. A few roots that have tangled my feet the past few weeks: we finally go places in public without stares. Most people know Brenna, or our family and find our more eccentric behavior unexciting. Miss Mindy keeps our children in exchange for leftovers once a month so that we can go on a real, honest to God date. Who will babysit in exchange for Cashew Chicken in Monticello? I know the kids that I work with at the school, and anticipate that my favorite will call me “Mr. Kaurin” and tell me when I’m “in the house”. What if I don’t have a Q dog favorite at a new school? When Goldie lost power steering in the parking lot at County Market, someone knew me and within moments had asked what help I needed. What happens now? Who will give Emily piano lessons? Who will Sam build snow forts with? Who will know how far Brenna has come and recognize her progress and not just see her challenges? Why did I ever start marking down our kids’ height on the little wall with the phone? How do I take that with me? Who will I wave to when I drive the kids to school? Who will I “walk and talk” with? Don’t even get me started on trying to find a new church.
I’m not as shiny and sparkly as I used to be. Friendships take longer to form—I’m more cautious to open up and share my heart. I love the idea of Greg not being on the road for so many hours each day and gaining time as a family, but selfishly, part of me doesn’t want to go.
When I came to Charleston in my early 20’s, there was a sense of excitement at coming to a new place with the belief that a new group of friends was just waiting to be made. Now it feels harder to leave than it ever felt leaving a place before.
I can smell the tangy damp scented earth, feel the heavy grit of it and hear the ripping of the roots as we make a list of home improvements and begin to look at houses. And still, I stare out the window at that cherry tree with the tiny buds on the ends of its branches.