We spend a lot of time at the pediatrician's office. A couple years back the practice changed locations, and though we mourned the loss of the water fountain, the new space is large and updated. It is also substantially closer to the parking lot. Like any habitual visitor, I have found a regular parking space. And because the location is new construction, the landscaping is young and fresh. We've been watching a certain tree grow with every one of our many visits.
Early on, the tree was small and spindly. It was overshadowed by our great hulking masses of wheeled metal, and appeared rather lonely so far removed from the other plants. Soon the wooden stakes were planted on either side - and the small tree was tethered to them - the strong guides for its future growth. Sydney was bothered by this tether for a while - one of those chains wrapped in gentle green plastic coating encircling the thin trunk.
"Is it a snake?"
"No, honey, it's a kind of rope, to keep the tree straight."
"Oh, so it's not a snake?"
And then her concern grew to curiosity:
"So, why does it need that thing?"
"Because it's not strong enough on its own."
"Oh. What will happen if it comes off."
"The tree will blow over too far and become crooked, or crack."
"So it's helping."
"Can I touch it?"
"Ummm, sure. Why do you ask?"
"I want to feel it - feel the helping."
Little by little the tree has grown larger and fuller, and it now hovers over the cars and minivans, like a watchful friend, welcoming us again. Its leaves are not brimming, nor is it near full grown, but there is something steady and familiar - a kind of permanence to its being.
When I took Sydney for her 5-year-old check-up, she pointed out yet another milestone for our leafed companion - the guide and the stakes had been removed. The tree was strong enough to weather the storm alone. When she asked if it was okay like that, I responded casually that yes, it would be okay. The tree was growing up big and strong. "Just like me!" was all she said, while gently rubbing the smooth, brown bark. And I had to fight back the tears as we walked through the doors to our appointment.