I didn’t always like to stomp around in the woods; I used to like to run around in Boston and the suburbs. I travelled for business and I visited a lot of American cities, too; it seemed exciting, like a Tee Vee commercial.
I remember very distinctly the day I started wanting to “go home.” It was the first year of this new century and I had been “dumped” by a man right before the Christmas holidays. Although I thought he was “the one,” he did not share my thoughts. There was some sound and fury (signifying nothing, of course) and a few dramatic tears. Then it was over.
It was a strange holiday at the Motel. Helen made many favorite treats which I wouldn’t eat. Fresh boxes of tissues appeared on my night stand while the damp and discarded ones disappeared from the overflowing trash bin while I slept.
On Christmas Eve Day, my father suggested a walk in the woods.
We stomped about much like I do these days. My father told me stories about the land as he remembered it as a child. He pointed out areas which had once been fields and areas he, O’Pa, and Uncle Bob had cleared. When I’d get distracted and weepy, he’d remind me to “be strong, like an oak tree” and then he’d point out a certain oak and tell me how it had grown so tall and strong. He explained that by clearing away “scrub” brush and trees from around the oak, it could grow and flourish. He said that some little trees would never be anything but a nuisance to the hardwood trees and as a good steward of the forest, he cleared selectively and carefully.
We approached a clearing; there was a tree in the middle of it.
I asked my father what kind of tree it was and he said “It’s a Hackmatack tree. I don’t know why I didn’t cut it down when we cleared this field.”
The Hackmatack tree is still there; I saw it just last Sunday. When I see it, I think of my father and his stoic attempts to cheer me up that particularly dreary holiday.
I remember a few things about the man from the Boston suburbs; in retrospect, I don’t think it would have worked out anyway. In fact, I’m glad he dumped me. If he hadn’t, I might have spent Christmas in Connecticut and never learned about Herman’s Hackmatack tree.
I might never have learned to listen to my father, either.
The desire to “go home” is or will be part of everyone’s story; have you found your Hackmatack tree yet?