Marc and I are finally renovating the house we built over 25 years ago. We are no longer that young couple that raised our family but empty nesters that never updated their house in 25 years. We concentrated on our kids, not our home, and it showed. Think the early 90s. Think flowers, stripes, and mauve…everywhere.
As most renovations go we are well over budget, and it’s taken twice the time to complete. To top it off, we are unable to live there during the project. But that’s not the story.
Last spring we had tagged all the trees with yellow ribbons because we were ‘updating’ the yard as well. We knew during the renovation it would be hard to see what vegetation needs to go and what needs to stay. Though Marc was concerned about the entire yard, I was mainly worried about one tiny, small, precious Crab Apple tree. My Jena tree.
In December of 2006, just weeks after Jena moved up to heaven, Uncle Joe and Sheila had given us a very young sapling of a tree. I was in no condition to be appreciative and didn’t know or care what it was. They were kind and thoughtful, and they planted the tree just outside my window.
I had no thought of the tree until one day the following spring when I walked outside and was surprised to see it had tiny pink buds on its tiny branches. I, along with that tiny tree, had survived the hardest of winters. It was then that I learned the first of many painful lessons Mother Nature would teach me; life goes on.
For the next ten years, I’d refer to that tree as my “Jena Crabby Apple Tree.” In time I’d learn that it would never grow tall like its neighboring mighty Oak Tree and through each winter her little ‘crabby’ apples would hold tight on the tree, keeping their vibrant colors, a vivid contrast to the starkness of the surrounding bare trees. I’d learn every spring, right around Jena’s birthday, buds would appear, and soon those tiny deep pink buds would open to large, showy white flowers. Yup. The similarities always made me smile and brought joy to my heart. That was my small yet beautiful “Crabby Apple Jena tree.”
Last December while Marc and I were away on our annual “Jena Adventure trip” (It’s our getaway taken between Thanksgiving-when her lungs collapsed- and December 4th when Jena ‘moved up’ to heaven after never receiving that life-saving lung transplant) we got a text that said,
“Big machines have arrived, and your house is in demolition mode.”
After the initial excitement wore off, I anxiously looked at Marc and said, “You put a ribbon on the Jena tree, right?” He wasn’t sure, and we had lost cell service for the next few days.
Would they not see it? Would they run their huge trucks over it? What if they ripped my Crabby Apple tree thinking it was supposed to be removed? Would anyone care as much as I did about that little small, yet beautiful, crabby apple tree?
In the few pictures they texted, I searched, scanned, and enlarged each one but I still couldn’t see the crabby apple tree in any of them. Heartbroken, I knew I might have to accept that my Crabby Apple might not make it.
When Jena ‘moved up’ she left me some ‘Jena parting gifts.’ One gift I was forced to learn was that my broken heart can survive pain, fear, and the unthinkable. Quite frankly, if I can survive not having my Jena here, on earth with me, I can certainly deal if my Jena Tree didn’t. I know it’s just a tree, but over the years I’ve truly grown to love that tree and loved the joy it brought me every day.
Four days later, we arrived home so relieved to see that our contractor had fully understood the sentimental value of that tiny crab apple tree. He said, “No one is going to touch that tree on my watch.” Prior to the demolition, he had brought in his own Bobcat to protect my small, yet beautiful, Crabby Apple Tree.
But while the joyful tears were still in my eyes he told the bad news; it had to be transplanted…now.
“But it’s December?”
He explained due to the landscaping plans it would not survive where it currently grew, and we had to transplant it now. We couldn’t wait until spring. Our contractor already had a tree guy lined up for that Friday.
Friday came, and the tree specialist arrived with the biggest tree spade I had ever seen. He too somehow knew about the sentimental value of that tiny tree and brought the largest spade he had so he could grab as many roots as possible if it were to have the slightest chance to survive the winter.
Last weekend over dinner Marc said, “Have you seen the Jena tree?”
Startled, scared, and perhaps I was too afraid to follow its progress over the winter I looked back at him and softly said with tears starting to well in my eyes, “No. Why?”
His smile widened and said, “Come on, let’s take a walk.”
As we approached the house and I saw my small, yet beautiful, Crabby Apple Jena tree. Not only had it survived the winter but it was miraculously flourishing. Its showy white and pink flowers were in full bloom. It was no longer small, and it was twice as beautiful. Its blossoms were reaching higher than they ever had before. They were now barely peeking into our new bedroom window. I was in full amazement…over a tree.
But this was more than a tree, and it was another beautiful lesson Mother Nature would teach me. A glorious gift I can now carry with me through the next 25 years living at this house.
As my tears fell my smile grew, my heart started to pound, and I wrapped my arms tightly around Marc and said, “Looks like our little Crabby Apple Tree isn’t so little anymore. I can’t wait for each morning to say ‘hello’ to my little girl.”