Family Trees

Dad’s property in Volcano was two and a half acres
in ohia – hapuu fern forest, field and lawn. Along
two sides were what he called tsugi pines over sixty
feet tall. Later I learned that these were cryptomeria,
from Japan, used as temple trees in those islands.

It was a place for a family to thrive but our family
was already shattered. Due to the divorce, Mom
never moved in. Once I asked Dad, Why? He replied,
Ask your mother. That – of course – was the end of
that. Jann never lived there, either; she married and left.

The house had been built in the 1920s, and a previous
owner was a professional horticulturalist who planted
specimen trees and ornamentals around the property.
Dad continued the practice.

Dad planted the mamane – his tree – just inside
the border of ohia – hapuu forest in his side yard.
He could see it with its tiny, dense orange seeds from
one of his bedroom windows. His mamane attracted
Native Hawaiian birds and this filled him with delight.

He planted the pussy willow – Kit’s tree – in the front
corner of the yard nearest our neighbor’s house and
the intersection. Kit loved its catkins. The pussy willow
flourished, even near Dad’s last tsugi pines closest to
the property line. Kit left early, too – when I turned ten.

I don’t recall Dad planting trees for Mom or Jann
on his property. After all, they were gone – even
before Kit. This is something we didn’t talk about.

In my thirteenth year Dad brought home a koa seedling,
and he had me plant it – my tree – in the other side
yard near a towering ohia. After it reached a certain
height, he could see it from his kitchen window.

Within three years the koa began dropping seeds.
Seedlings appeared in the lawn in an arc around
the koa trunk. We were excited and overjoyed
at seeing the tiny koa plants. Dad had me re-plant
the seedlings in a line along that edge of his property
bordering his field.

The rot must have started in my eighteenth year.
By then, while the koa towered over the tsugi pines,
there was rot affecting part of the base of its trunk.
I may have found it before I left for college or during
break. I didn’t tell Dad; I’m sure he found it himself.
This is something else we didn’t talk about.

Andrew Shattuck McBride
April 24, 2012

About Andrew Shattuck McBride

I am a writer, editor, writing coach, and consultant. I work in a variety of genres, including poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. I also have a couple of novels simmering on back burners. THANK YOU to Nan Macy of Village Books for taking this photo (June 2011).
This entry was posted in Andrew Shattuck McBride Writer, In My Father's Kitchen, Likeke R. McBride, NaPoWriMo ~ 2012, Samples. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Family Trees

  1. I didn’t use a prompt for this poem. However, it is influenced by Maureen Thorson’s earlier prompt, “Write a poem about a plant” which led me to write about the Chinese Banyan tree I cut down in Mom’s yard. That was my poem yesterday.

  2. So lovely, Andy. I sure enjoy all the plant names in how many, three different languages? The idea of the different trees representing family members is strongly poignant. And the “something we didn’t talk about” repetition is a nice unifying device and light-touch reminder of the family being “shattered.” (OW.)

    What a garden the memory is!

  3. Thank you Jennifer. I’m wondering if this seems to be struggling toward an essay rather than a poem.
    I agree. I was back on Dad’s property as I was thinking about and writing this! It was beautiful. I’ll add that I mowed the nearly two acres in lawn with a gas mower for several years!

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