Living Life

Sometimes Things Break

My great-grandmother shuffled in the front door of my parents’ house, pushing her walker in front of her.

“I was just sitting there, and it fell.”

We rushed outside to see what “it” was; it was a tree.

Sometimes Things Break

The tree lived on the edge, literally, of the yard. The last tree on the right-hand side looking down toward the road, the tree also lived on the edge quite figuratively. This particular tree seemed to enjoy being hit by lightning. I mean, I’m not sure it liked being hit by lightning, but it did it quite often and so, maybe it just got used to being struck by a white hot bolt from the sky.

Who knows. All we know is that on a windless, breezeless, absolutely still afternoon on the first of September, the tree fell over. Split in two. Fell to the ground. Gave up the ghost. Kaput.

Sometimes things break.


Our own tree broke last year, and I still feel the grief over losing our evening shade as we sit with our hands over our eyes in the late evening watching our sons throw footballs and ride bikes and tackle each other to the ground. My dad breaks a lot of glass, a combination between his big hands and his tendency to talk with them; things go flying or dropping, shattering on the porcelain tile of the kitchen floor. Pages fall out of beloved books, handed to me by a boy with a look on his face that crosses somewhere between “I didn’t do it” and “Oh my goodness, my previous, beloved book is broken; can you please fix it, Mommy?” Cheap toys break, their plastic pieces discarded unnoticed. Expensive toys break to the grumbles of parents who spent good money. Boxes that once shipped cheap or expensive toys to the house and were henceforth confiscated to become a robot or a video arcade or a fort break down, fall apart, disintegrate under the weight of childhood play. Holes get worn into the knees and bottoms of jeans, show up on the seams of beloved shirts.

Sometimes humans break, too.

Maybe just a little, like the time I took a line drive to the ankle on the pitcher’s mound and ended up with a minor stress fracture. We pull muscles and wrench our backs and get cricks in our necks. We need surgery to fix internal things gone awry. Sometimes we’re born with things that don’t work right: my kidney, my Amanda’s heart, my son’s ear. Sometimes we put a little wear and tear on our own bodies, daily use and lack of care adding up together.

And sometimes the weight of everything we’re expected to accomplish and do within a 24 hour period pushes us down, down, down until we break under the heaviness of it all. Sometimes bad news comes at the worst moment. Sometimes good news comes five minutes too late. Sometimes we put too much trust in other people or in the way things are supposed to work or in faith or in society or in humanity, compassion, love, the sheer act of living. Sometimes our hearts break because we can’t fix what’s wrong with the world. Sometimes our hearts break because we can’t fix what’s wrong with ourselves. Sometimes our hearts can’t be fixed, and we sit with our feet dangling, tear drops landing on our shoelaces, and we ask the unthinkable, the unanswerable, “What now?”

What Now?

It is then, in the “what now,” that maybe—just maybe—we can find solace in the fact that all things break. We, as humans, are more than the discarded cheap plastic toys, the dilapidated cardboard robot, the glass shattered on the porcelain floor. We are real; we are flesh and blood, feeling and emotion, love and hate, touch and hold, beyond even Pinocchio and the Velveteen Rabbit. We are so real, we are so worth standing up, wiping the tear drop, and finding out the answer to the question.

What now, indeed.


Home Ownership Rocks/Sucks Living Life

“A Tree Falls the Way it Leans; Be Careful which Way You Lean”

When we closed on our house, the first things the boys did was hang from and attempt to climb the tree.

Tree on Move In Day
Note: Holy moly, have they grown in a year!

Over the past year and not-quite-four-months, we’ve made a lot of memories under that tree. They’ve learned to climb the tree. They’ve gotten stuck in the tree. We painted a robot underneath the tree’s branches.

They’ve searched for blue gold as pirates. And built fort after fort. They’ve sprayed the hose while playing firefighter.

Playing Under the Tree

We’ve hung out with friends.

Friends and the Tree

We’ve read many a book.

Reading Under Our Tree

And today…

Tree Down

She’s in pieces. The wind came up so quickly, so suddenly. We knew the storm was making its way in our direction, but it moved faster than we anticipated. Suddenly, the whole house sounded as if it might take leave of its foundation. I stood at the stove, spoon hovering over the pan as I heard, “Our tree broke!” I ran to the living room to see BigBrother standing at the window, a look of sadness on his face.

Sad BB

And it was. Broken. Our tree.

The Tree from the Front

Closer Still

Talking to Friends

In the grand scheme of bad weather luck, this is not the worst that could have happened. Our backyard neighbors suffered far worse as one of their trees landed on their house. We have minor roof damage from the wind, but nothing major. We are lucky. We are blessed.

Eat Ice Cream When You're Sad

But we’re still sad. We nursed our wounds on some ice cream this evening, sitting on the porch as the golden sun came out from behind the clouds and began to sink into the most glorious of sunsets.


My husband pulled me into his arms later. “We’ll plant a new one. Whatever you want.” Others pointed out that the new tree will grow with the boys; it will be their tree. Both boys got excited about whatever new tree we’ll plant and how they’ll love it and climb it… except that by the time it’s climbing-size, they won’t be interested in climbing it or playing ninjas in its branches or painting robots or putting out imaginary fires or sitting underneath the branches on a warm summer evening on The Very Hungry Caterpillar blanket while reading and cuddling and tickling and laughing so hard we all cry a little bit. Or pee.

Yes, we’ll plant a new tree, but I’ll miss this tree and all it meant to our family for the short time we had it in our lives. We’ll make new memories around and, eventually, under a new tree. We’ll lean on one another while we watch it grow.