Daysong Graphics
The Ash Tree

The ash tree in our backyard started dying the spring of my thirteenth year. I remember sitting in the bay window of my bedroom and looking down at the twisted bark, waiting for the buds to appear like pistachios on the tips of the branches, then for them to bloom into a rustling mass of vibrant green, waving up at me in the breeze. But when April turned to May and May to June and only a few scattered buds blossomed into half-hearted leaves, my stepfather told me it was time for that tree to come down.

He stood beneath the glaring sun, squinting up into the gnarled branches, with a chain saw in his gloved hands, while I glared at the pear tree keeping it company. The fruit exploded from the branches, each one competing for space before giving up and plummeting to the ground. The rotted stickiness of the fallen pears attracted bees, and I’d already been stung twice. Of the two trees to die, why couldn’t it have been that one? Why did it have to be my ash tree? Ourash tree?

“You want to take the tree house down first, or cut it with the tree?” Jeff set down his offending weapon and walked over to the rope ladder strung to the lowest branch, where my dad and I had built our fort in the limbs.

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What She Gives

I’m knitting a hat for my fourth grandson still in my daughter’s womb. The pale blue dome is soft in my hands. I’ve washed it three times to fray the wool, to dull it down, making it tender to the touch. I tie the finishing knot on the bonnet for my grandson, who should come into this world in less than a week. I place it on my desk. It stays statuesque, as though already prepared to perch upon an infant’s head. Pictures of my other grandsons cover the walls of my phlebotomy office like wallpaper.

A deflated mother holds the door open for her daughter. The girl is ten. I’ve reviewed her chart. The girl’s cheeks beam with a gossamer glow. Her Hannah Montana shirt glitters in the bright fluorescent lights of the office. She heads straight to the plastic chair, telling me it reminds her of the chairs at the airport. Everything about her mother looks as though someone has sucked the life from her with a colossal straw. Her eyes are bloodshot. I know that to get that red, she’s been crying for days.

The young girl introduces herself with poise and confidence. “I’m Lauren.”

“I have a daughter named Lauren,” I say.

“It’s a great name. A strong name,” she says, as she flips through the Highlights magazine she plucked from the bottom of a basket, then promptly returns to the chair. Her mother remains silent. “Doctors want to check my platelets. I’ve got leukemia. But it’s a good thing, you know. I’m here and not in the hospital.” This girl with eyes rivaling the blue delphinium in my garden: her resiliency penetrates me.

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