A Momentous Moment
OK - This was it. -This is his big moment for him to contribute something really special to the new house which might just establish him as a person of importance living there!
He thinks he kind of knows what it needs to be. A tree for him to plant would do it!! A really impressive tree!
He's looked at those magazines his mother gets in the mail, all about houses and gardens and things and noticed pictures of different kinds of trees in the yards. He remembers seeing a picture of a peach tree with flowers all over it, thinking that peaches are good to eat. But that doesn't seem quite impressive enough.
There aren’t many trees on the new street where the house is. More houses are going up and little scrawny trees are dozed down to lay the foundations. The yards are all just dirt - like thiers was before Dad put in some grass.
There are trees lining a creek nearby but they are all tangly and ugly looking. He certainly wouldn’t want one of those. They had a pecan tree where they lived before they moved. It was a nice big tree with pretty leaves but there were all those nuts in the yard and he and Junior had to pick them up and then help shell them. He would almost dream of pecans after a day of that! He didn’t think he wanted a pecan tree no matter how big and nice looking it was but he was sure wishing he knew more about trees, ‘cause right now, it really, really mattered!
Suddenly he remembered seeing a picture of a great looking tree! It was one of those magnolia trees, all full of enormous white blossoms and big shiny leaves. Now THAT was a good tree, he said out loud. A few people looked at him, wondering who the little kid was talking to! Didn't matter. Now he knew what to look for! So he started looking for the magnolia trees up and down the aisles. But doesn’t see one. That's not good. Maybe they're too big and too good to just put them in with any old plants! Yeah – maybe that’s it. Must be. He's sure that HIS tree needs a MUCH better place! Still looking, though - he wonders - where?
Now he sees an opening out onto a screened area, with even a screened roof!
He notices there are larger pots with larger plants in them. He runs out there, almost tripping over a fallen bag of fertilizer stuff, but he’s undaunted! Out he goes and runs down a row and starts back up the next row. . . and now he sees what has to be one! It looks like the picture in the magazine! Big glossy leaves! Even a couple of flowers about to bloom. It’s taller than he is. Well – it’s even taller than Junior! And it’s in a great big pot. It may only have a couple of smallish blossoms but he knows that it will do, just FINE! Yessir! He could hardly wait to get Dad and show him!
He ran back to where his Dad had been gathering together plants and accessories he’d need to landscape the walkway and front area and had piled them into a cart and was setting them onto the counter when Sonny ran up to him. Tim sees that he’s so excited he can barely talk but, holding on to Dad’s hand, he just pours it all out almost unintelligibly that he's found the very tree he wants to buy to plant in the front yard! Sonny knew he'd never felt so much excitement and sense of – well, power, that's what it felt like, now that he'd get to plant that wonderful tree – himself!
Still grabbing Dad’s hand and pulling, Sonny tries to lead him to that outside area so they could get it. He can't wait!
"Whoa, there, Sonny - give a guy time to put down these plants!" And Tim winked at the nursery checker who'd been pointing out the different plants' advantages as to light exposure requirements and color coordination. "Big plans going on here", he said to her as he handed her the plant he'd been examining and told her he'd be right back. She smiled and set his plants toward the side of her counter till they would return to claim them.
Babbling about his tree, Sonny even more urgently pulled Tim along through the aisles back to the open door out onto the outdoor covered patio where the larger plants were located. He went straight to the second row where he pointed with pride at "his" special tree!
Dad was impressed, obviously. He tipped his head and winked in approval of Sonny’s taste in trees. But then, his brow knitted a bit and, eye-balling its size and lifting the tag to see the price, he said it was for sure a magnificent tree, but added with a sympathetic look that he had to say it might be a bit too much.
Sonny's happy little face fell like an apple off a tree in December. Tears welled up in his clear blue eyes as he lowered them toward the rough nursery floor and scuffed his shoe’s toe on it. He was choking back tears but a couple just rolled down his nose and dropped onto the floor with a little splash anyway. He felt devastated, deflated like a balloon after the party. He’d had disappointments before, but not after being so full of hope and optimism – or the feeling of success. Now it seems to have vanished in the moment as if it had never existed.
Tim was visibly touched. The last thing he wanted was to disappoint the boy, especially after he’d built up such excitement and hope. He rubbed his chin, looked around – noticing there were many other choices and thinking surely they could find another tree that would fill the bill.
So he bent down and tilted Mike’s sad little face up gently and said "Don't cry, son. We can find a little smaller one for you to plant!" He reached out and brushed a tear off Sonny’s cheek and smiled into his face, looking for traces of the hope and joy to return to it.
Sonny perked up somewhat. Maybe all was not lost. But he'd been so taken with THAT magnolia. He’d felt like it had chosen him too! He hadn’t for a moment even considered another one. He straightened up a bit and puffed a little sigh. He said, “Ok, Daddy.”
He didn’t have a lot of choice, did he? If Dad said “no”, - well, it meant he couldn’t have it. But at least it wasn’t a complete “no” to his getting to have a magnolia tree. He'd have to settle for some other one. He tried to look happy, but there were still some tears rising to the surface as he followed along beside his Dad, not skippilng happily as before, but together they set off in search of a sapling magnolia tree for him to choose, acquire and plant.
So he began to remind himself, - at least it wasn't a complete disappointment. He trailed along several more rows with Dad, looking lackadaisically at little old trees which were obviously inferior to his tree. Not one of them grabbed him. He just shrugged at the sight of each one. But then, as though it were planned just for him, they found the right area where smaller, but elegant magnolia trees were located and his spirits started to rise again. They looked pretty good. They really did.
He started to skip along beside his Dad as they looked over those rows for another "just right" choice. He was feeling like Dad understood how much he needed it to be right. He began to feel that elation again.
There! A really good-looking sapling! It had put out a few leaves and you could tell they were healthy, shiny and rich green. Its pot wasn’t as big but it wasn’t just some little bitty nothing pot, either. It had - well, it had some of what his other tree had, just not as old or as big yet.
His eyes began to light up again as he hopefully pointed it out to his Dad while he looked searchingly into his expression for signs of approval.
“That one, Daddy? Could I have that one? I really do like it!” And Dad was smiling, too! – He seemed to like the choice. Then Dad even said it looked healthy and "just right". Sonny had already concluded that! But to have his Dad’s agreement, that was really special.
Dad assured him it was just the right one and congratulated him on being a good chooser. Sonny’s smile was ear to ear and his eyes sparkled like diamonds. He was giddy with pride and delight. As they looked for a cart he was almost jumping up and down. He'd forgotten about wanting that bigger one now.
Dad spotted a cart on the next aisle and pulled it over next to the row and let Sonny load his tree onto it. "See, Sonny. This one is just your size! You can even carry it. And it will fit in the car."
"Yeah. . . ! It will!" Sonny's eyes are dancing, just thinking about it.
Tim laughed to himself. He hadn’t really considered whether or not the other one would fit into the trunk, even with it half open! He'd just been thinking about its being more than Sonny could handle to plant and that would probably make Sonny feel bad about himself. It was a bit pricey, but if he’d felt right about getting it for the boy, that wouldn’t have been a big issue. He was happy that he’d followed his better judgment and that it was turning out well. There was no question that it was!
With eyes sparkling, Sonny was almost hugging the pot as he lifted it enough to get it started scooting onto the cart. It was pretty heavy – had been watered recently – but he was able to manage it, little as he was. Determination made up for any brawn he had yet to develop!
He touched the leaf closest to him almost reverently as together they slid it onto the cart all the way. Tim smiled. He'd felt that kind of attachment with plants himself from the time he was a boy. Looked like his youngest son was going to have a similar affiliation. Very good!
"As your tree grows, so will you, son. You'll grow together!"
"Yeah. . . we will." Sonny was so elated he didn't know what else to say.
He proudly pushed the cart with HIS tree jiggling as it rolled over the uneven nursery floor and they wended their way back to the counter where the clerk was waiting with Tim's other plants. He'd already gathered a cart full of flowering plants, small bushes and hedge plants, bags of planting soil and plant food and a few new shiny hand tools. He had enough bricks to line a small winding flower garden along the sidewalk. He'd found a tasteful gardem statue of a frog to tuck in next to the porch and a statue of a small boy gardener for the little flower garden area. And even though Sonny hadn't been too interested in tools, he thought he should have his own hand sprinkler for watering his tree, so he found just the right light-weight one for him. Sonny was happy about the sprinkler but he was so tickled about his tree, he didn't fully realize he'd need anything else!
Tim also noticed a birdbath he intended to get for the back yard and planned to build a bird house out there too. Next trip, he'd be working on that. It was a pleasant thought. Maybe things would improve and the family would have a good time here in this house. He could remember how it had been at home with his own parents and those summers with his Great Uncle Timothy and Aunt Bev were some of the best times of his life. That was what he most wanted for his home!
Junior joined them with the things he'd found to get and he looked happy about their excursion. "Dad, this is really fun! I saw so many great garden tools and lots of things to plant, too! What do you think?" He spread out the things he'd thought looked useful and looked up questioningly at Dad. Tim smiled as he inspected his son's choices. "You found some great things, Junior. Good choices, son. Let's see, we need to be sure there are no duplicates." He shook Junior's hand, man to man and motioned him to help decide about the items. They examined each thing and sorted them into "keepers" and another group. Some wouldn't be needed for awhile, others were more showy than they were useful or necessary. Junior listened to the reasons and was satisfied that the items he was to get were all appropriate and would be useful. He was starting to really get interested in the yard and garden project! "I'll show and tell these things in class", he volunteered hoprfully. "Hey, son - that's a good idea." They got his items on the counter with the other things to be rung up and then they were loading it all into a cart. This was going to be a full carload, Tim was thinking!
What Tim had been thinking about as he watched his sons gathering their selections with so much enthusiasm, was how good he felt about their venture already! It felt natural.
He couldn't keep from thinking of all the things about those easy balmy days on the farm when he was their age and on through his teens, back before the war. He'd been just learning about doing a job and experiencing the satisfaction it brought just as they were going to be doing.
But then, things had been so, - well, - so different. Now it seemed like things were in too much rush. He'd had enough of that overseas and yet nothing had slowed down very much. The dreams he'd had of coming back to a world he'd left were over like the war. Having a new career and family and now a new house and yard, was a challenge and he guessed it was a good one, but it just wasn't the same, somehow. There was something more restless about it. He guessed it just felt more insecure.
Marion wasn't much like his mother or Aunt Bev, either. In fact, Pop had mentioned to him after a visit, that he needed to, as he expressed it, "get control of your woman". Tim never noticed his Dad or uncle needing to "get control" of their wives and frankly, he didn't have any idea how he could do that even if he agreed. Marion was very headstrong and she had her mother nearby as an example! He counted on the house and having it suit her making her happy. Things had been strained and she didn't have all she'd been used to. But he hoped she would before long. He was advancing well in his work.
But, he realized, he didn't really much want to spoil this pleasant moment thinking about that. He was enjoying the boys and remembering the good times on the farm, where it was always plenty busy but never rushed. At the end of the day they'd sit on the porch where it was cool, talking and enjoying the sunset and the fragrance of the fields before they turned in early. They were always plenty ready for their sleep after a good day's work.
They'd be up early each morning. Tim didn't yet have a driver's license for the roads, but he'd get out on the tractor and plough before it got too hot. He loved those lanquid, dusty trips, - down one row, turn the tractor and go up the next. Uncle Timothy would be working on some other part of the field or at the barn. When Aunt Bev called them in for lunch, they'd switch off the machines and head for the water pump. Splashing that cool water on their dusty faces felt so good. Tim smiles now, recalling how much midwest dust he rinsed off his face every time! Aunt Bev had commented on more than one occasion that if he'd stockpiled all that dirt to take home in the fall, he could have planted his own wheat field!
When they went in the house, Uncle Timothy's favorite bowl would be set on the table. He would add his favorite soup to the cubed pieces of wheat toast already in the bowl. They would soak up the steaming liquid, which Aunt Bev brought in a small pitcher that matched the bowl in which she'd placed the toast. When Uncle Timothy poured his brothy soup on the toast, his face looked like the picture of satisfaction. As a youngster, Tim loved watching that ritual. He would relate it to his sons many times over the years.
He also remembered how his uncle had always expected him to rise to responsibility and accept it manfully. His uncle was always cheerful and light-hearted but it didn't keep him from tending to his nephew's character training with a firm will!
Tim "borrowed" a quarter from his uncle when they were in town getting supplies and he'd spotted something he wanted for himself. He had some money he earned from the work he did, but was short a quarter of being able to buy it. He got the quarter. But a time of reckoning came when Uncle Timothy expected him to make good on his obligation to repay it. It was an indelible lesson for Tim. It wasn't a matter of amount owed. It was a matter of principle.
Years later he would shake his head when one of his sons borrowed a saw and when asked when his Dad could expect it back, said with surprise, "Oh, did you want it back?" It was a mindset totally incomprehensible to Tim. Little did he realize that it was a microcosm of a characteristic which has been called "entitlement", common to the Boomer generation, and that his astonished reaction to it was a microcosm of his generation's. Neither generation really understood the other's and seemingly it was a gap that was virually non-bridgeable, whose effects would continue for many more generations and into the next millinium!
But Tim had personally never forgotten not only what he learned by the experience of the quarter owed, but that his uncle respected him enough to hold him accountable. And it would never have occurred to him to question it. He knew it was important for him to learn and he reminded himself to take more time to relay lessons like that to his sons. If only the days didn't whiz by so fast with so much to fill them! He didn't always have the luxury that the farm life provided. But he knew it was too important to overlook. He'd just have to try harder.
His aunt and uncle had no children of their own so no grand kids either. Tim was the grandson they would have loved to have. He'd been "all boy" but they also knew that he was a "good boy" as well, respectful and self-motivated. They admired the way he'd prided himself in doing his work on the farm well and he contributed his share to help Aunt Bev after working outside. He knew he did know how to get things done! And now, - there was much to be done!
He reflected on how Uncle Timothy taught him so many important things that helped make him the man he'd become, since he'd spent time with his favorite aunt and uncle every summer since boyhood.
Uncle Timothy was a district judge and Tim had gotten to go to the courthouse with him when he sat on the bench. Tim usually hung out in the chambers looking at the books and mementos, - unless he happened to hear laughter in the courtroom! He knew that his uncle had said something witty and had the whole courtroom laughing so he would run to the door his uncle used to enter the dias and Tim would open it a crack so he could peek in and see what all the laughing was about! His own granddad - uncle Timothy's brother - was also a judge but he was always stern and reserved. Tim respected him but he didn't tag after him like he did Uncle Timothy. Tim had always aspired to be more like his uncle when he was a man. He visualized having a family full of love and laughter.
Watching both his sons basking in the joy of living things, he felt hope glimmering that his hard work and hopes could blossom too. Perhaps they could bring some of those "good ole days" into this more frantic time and place!
As he contemplated planting the new things and seeing his youngest son so thrilled about his little magnolia tree and the older one inspired to learn to garden, - - he could almost forget the tension that seemed to creep into the days to haunt his own house now. Maybe it's temporary, he thought. Maybe when Marion has things the way she wants them, it will ease up. He knew he'd never give up the vision of a happy family and vowed to work harder and to spend more days like this one with those two little guys, one so stocky and one so slim and both so full of joy right then!
He wanted to be able to keep them smiling more! He'd try to make it to Junior's softball games and take them both fishing some times.
They took all the plants, accessories and tools to the cashier. Tim paid for their "loot", as he called it, and the three of them loaded most of them into the back of the car with some in the back seat, beside Junior. He didn't mind sharing the seat with these wondrous things! Junior sat up front holding a flat of cover plants as they drove back to their pretty new house.
Sonny ran into the house with his bright eyes shining to tell his mother what they'd gotten and hoping to share the excitement. "Mommy! Where are you?" he said.
"You didn't take off your shoes!" she shouted from the back of the house without seeing him. He ran back to the door and took them off and then ran back looking for her to tell her about his tree! He found her in the breakfast room sipping coffee and reading the paper, but she put it down and listened attentively. He felt good about that.
Junior kicked off his shoes at the door and carried his new garden tool choices in and went straight on toward the garage where he knew they'd be stored.
Marion, who had gone to the kitchen as he passed through going to the garage, noticed him carrying them and asked what they were and what they were for. He explained them like an expert and she smiled as he proceeded on to the garage. She was no gardener but liked that her son seemed to be knowledgeable.
Then the boys went back out to help Tim unload all the plants and other items into the garage after he opened its door from inside. They'd never had a large garage like this before so it was a treat.
Tim planned to set up his workshop on one side. That would leave room for the car on the other side. He'd learned to build things from the practical to the artistic from Uncle Timothy and his own dad, who was a skilled woodworker too. These were interests he also hoped his sons would like - if ever he had enough time from work and chores to teach them!
Sonny's Dream Tree
Sonny was so wrapped up in his tree right then, he couldn’t have been more ecstatic! In fact, right then, he didn’t care about his shoes and didn't even think where Junior was doing his own thing! His head was so full of thoughts of his tree and himself growing up together. He could envision it enormous and with blossoms and big leaves like the one in the magazine. He wouldn't mind at all if he dreamed about it tonight! Little did he know, small as he was then, that not only would the magnolia reach its magnificent height, but he, too, would grow to be a tall and good-looking man! That night, though, his dreams were happy enough just imaginging how things would turn out!
This time, one thing Sonny knew was that he WAS a WINNER! That was all he needed to know then. He also couldn't know that this day's triumph and accomplishment would carry him through many a personal struggle for most of his life, wrestling with his demons of self-doubt and sometimes, the depths of depression and desperation which followed and occasionally caught up with him. This day, even when he didn't consciously recall it, had planted a seed in his little boy's being that would always lend its power to those moments when it was needed - and someday - it would lift him as high as its tallest branches!
He could always think back to this day again and again over the years, remembering the little tree that had waited just for him and become HIS as nothing else had been his up till then and how it had grown with him!
He just wanted to hold on to this moment and its glow . He thought about it all through dinner and the rest of the evening and couldn't stop smiling!
It was the end of a perfect day!
See Previous: Magnolia – opus 3 (To be continued. . . )