General Fiction posted January 19, 2019

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A lifetime invested in an avocado seed...

The Memory Tree

by Y. M. Roger

You were only four years old that autumn – the autumn your dad didn’t come home from his deployment – the year our lives changed forever. Your little hands were so chubby and uncoordinated as you held up that big seed, but you insisted we grow a tree. I can still hear that repetitive song you sang - the words still an earworm to this day - as we poked the toothpicks into the avocado seed and suspended it over the jar of water.
And, as our first Christmas without him came and went, we watched that crazy seed as it split open slowly – its roots reaching down toward the water, and its small stem straining upward. I remember your little hands shakily holding the small cup of water every damn day to keep the level in the jar exactly where it needed to be. Your angelic face so determined – your eyes so focused, your lips pursed in concentration.
Every morning before preschool, we would check on your tree, and you were dogged in your determination to do things just right. That summer, enough of a root system had developed that you and I bought all the necessary supplies and planted it. The tree itself had only managed three leaves at that point, but it was your tree. And you were so proud!
I remember you were nearly ten when we transplanted it the first time. An apartment our size probably wasn’t the ideal place for an avocado tree, but the professor next door assured us that the tree would not outgrow its pot. And you took that as gospel, saying that our tree wouldn’t grow bigger and get avocados unless we re-potted it. So, of course, we did.
Or, rather, you did. Our trip to the nursery is one of my best memories of our days out together. We had a big pancake breakfast at the Waffle House, and we rode go carts at the miniature track in town before getting what we needed. You politely directed the salesperson to exactly what you needed: you knew name brands and everything because you had researched it all. You were so serious, so resolute to do right for your tree.
The next time you re-potted it – to the pot it’s in now – we were arguing. You wanted to stay out past your usual curfew because you had a date ‘with the most beautiful girl in the world’, and her friends did not have to be home as early as you did. God, I hated arguing with you, but I wouldn’t budge and you were so tenacious. You even wrote up a contract with the exact places you planned to be and at what times. You went even further, downloading a locator app for both your phone and mine that allowed me to ‘track’ you and know your location for the entire evening. Your excitement when you won me over … well, I still wish I had a picture of it!
And, now? Now, that you’re not here to take care of it, the damn thing is dying. Your first deployment was in January and, because it was all so sudden, I guess I really didn’t pay attention to how I should be taking care of this stupid tree. And you know that bud that appeared that I texted you a photo of last month? Well, it’s dying along with the rest of it.

But, don’t worry, son – I’ve had words with it. I refuse to let it die. I guess I get my determination from you. I’ve called the university co-op, and they’re sending someone out tomorrow. As I've told it multiple times, this tree is our memory tree, and it’s still got a lot more memories to grow. And it will be here when you return.
Be safe, son. And, at Christmas, your tree and I will both be here waiting.  


Dying Houseplant writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
A houseplant is dying. Tell it why it needs to live.

Image 'Grow your own avocado plant' from Pinterest []
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