Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Mulberry Tree

There's a mulberry tree in the side yard of the house I grew up in. It's huge and it blocks various power lines and cables to the house. My father blames it when our Internet connection has trouble functioning. It blooms with obscene berries in the spring and summer. I have never eaten them. Every time I look at a berry, it has minuscule white creatures crawling through the valleys of its tiny bulbous sections that contain its pulp. When they're ripe, they're juicy and taste delicious, but I still haven't eaten one from our particular tree. I've decided I'm going to try one tonight--after a thorough cleansing of course. They don't look ready to eat, but I've got to try one while I can.

We're removing the tree soon. Over the course of the winter and early spring, inclement weather and what I can only describe as rot have taken their toll on the tree. A couple months ago a large portion of the trunk split off from the rest of the tree and lay sadly on the lawn. Our yard keeper promised to take care of it expediently, but she only just showed up this week. It was a terrible sight as the tree was bare. The fallen part lay neatly, yet it remained an eyesore.

I thought the entire tree might be dead, but a few weeks ago buds started appearing. They formed on the intact branches as well as the part that had fallen. I looked closely, and the two were still attached at the base. I suppose I should have gotten a kick out of this mulberry tree and its gumption, but it had the opposite effect on me. It was trying its hardest to exist and function as it should, but it had no idea that humans would never just leave it be. All this effort pretending to be a tree, and it would still be cut away. I sat next to it and said, "sometimes it's okay to give up. You don't have to be strong anymore."

Several days ago, I noticed that another large section had leaned toward the ground. I don't know when exactly it was, but the trunk is bent, not broken, so perhaps it was gradual. This time it was into the neighbor's property. We couldn't let it fester. The yard keeper cut away the offending parts, and that was that.

Now when I look closely I can tell the rest of the components of the main trunk will peel away like a corn husk. There are dark brown lines like an infection where the tree is weak. There are some present that haven't given in yet, but it's just a matter of time.

My father told me he had a decision to make: hope that the rest of the tree lasts or have it removed entirely. He indicated that he was of mind to be rid of it. I was shocked. I got upset when he suggested we tear it down. He asked me why, but I only told him the yard would look awful without it. What I didn't say was that the tree is one of the few remnants of my mother's touch on our home. The garden used to be grand and beautiful because of her, but now it is impersonal and functional--kept by a stranger. It's a ghost of what it was.

After years of decline, my parents divorced when I was seventeen. The time preceding it was very difficult on the whole family. We had all known for a long time that our family didn't work the way it was supposed to. Anger and resentments grew until it was intolerable for all involved. The way other people describe their parents' divorce is how I feel now. About the tree. I feel like my father is betraying us and giving up on it. I'm not approaching the current situation with the same relief and calm logic that accompanied the separation years ago. I haven't been crying in my room wishing for this day for years.

After further examination I can admit it's time to let the tree go. It's best for everyone. Staying together for the saplings is no longer a valid option. I just collected a few berries to consume and say goodbye to. I chose the reddest among the pink and green sea of what was reachable. They should be a deep violet, but I don't have time to wait for their maturation. I teared up as I bit into the ripest berry. Its flavor flowed lightly sweet, laced with an undercurrent of bitterness--the same as my feelings about my parents' time together.


  1. those berries have hella antioxidants. loving this post

  2. I'm sad I'm just reading this now, when you posted it two years ago. I loved it.