Twenty-three years ago, we moved from New England to Washington, D.C. I moved first, as I had a job offer and needed to show up. My spouse stayed behind to rent the house that was sluggish in selling. We’d left Connecticut because the economy had tanked and job prospects were dim. I had been asked to take two pay cuts, and each time was reminded that there were people with more experience and better education who were willing to do my job for less pay. It was a hard time.
As the end of December neared, I was living in a tiny, cheap apartment, which held a few sticks of furniture and the minimum of kitchen supplies. As a surprise, my sweetie showed up right before Christmas so we could spend a few days together. I hadn’t bought a tree, and my intrepid spouse went out, bought a ficus from a failing hardware store. The tropical trees were on the sidewalk, covered in snow.
It’s still with us, reminding us that unexpected things–good things–can surprise you if you nurture what is hopeful, even if it is chancy.
It’s taking over the living room, it is, that tree
Leaves filled in, more pushing out of sturdy stems.
A few forgotten ornaments hidden, waiting for a celebration.
You bought that tree in ‘93, scraggly, snow-filled,
Snatched it from the gaping door at fast-fading Hechinger’s
Brought it home to brighten up that desolate apartment
The cats and I called home while you
were winding up our life up North somewhere.
Six moves it took with us; each one a risk.
The last one, cross-country in a darkened, over-heated van
In August. I thought it wouldn’t last.
It threw off leaves. I held my breath.
But that ficus, it knows what love is.
Knows the value of holding on when light is rare.
He’s taught me a thing or two about waiting
Through the times when love is cold
Waiting for the light and warmth you bring.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing. She is also a coach who is determinedly optimistic.