“Mama, look— that tree is broken!” Eileen cried out, her innocent face lit in alarm. Dana smiled at her daughter. “No, it’s okay. Look: it still has leaves, so it’s still alive.”
“But trees are supposed to stand tall and strong!” Eileen protested. Dana laughed, unable to resist the impulse to hug the child. “Of course! And you know what? That tree is strong, too!”
Eileen stared quizzically at her mother, confused and suspicious. Kissing her child’s forehead, Dana continued. “You see, most trees that fall… well, they die. But this one didn’t.” She paused for a while, and nodded at the direction of the tree. “It lived on, it continued to grow; even though it’s almost kissing the ground, it did not give up being a tree. It doesn’t look like the other trees, but it’s also beautiful the way it is now, isn’t it?”
Eileen was listening to what her mother said, but not her words; no, she was listening at how her voice changed: in rhythm, in loudness, in emotions. It was like listening to the rustling of leaves when the summer winds blow, but hearing the crackle of each leaf as it breaks away from the branches, tumbling in the breeze and onto the grass. And Eileen heard it: those catches in her breath as she choked back some words, how she sounded more happy when her voice is almost like a whisper, and how she looked tormented when she uttered brave words.
And Eileen, young as she was, understood in her own childlike way: why the broken tree meant so much to her mother, and why they always visited this place— long after they last came here together with her father, now planted on the ground. Will he become a tree, too? she asked. Her mother was too busy crying to reply then.
And now, Dana was too busy trying not to be broken again.