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Poppy’s Gift

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He planted the little apple tree the day his daughter turned two years old. His precious angel didn’t seem to appreciate his gift though as she toddled around the yard with the bubble blowing lawn mower which was her favorite gift so far. Using a bicycle tire he got from the dump he cut pieces to fit around the tiny little trunk to keep it upright without damaging the tender, soft flesh beneath the bark. To this he attached ropes which stretched to the ground and were secured to heavy stakes pounded deep in the earth. Now the tiny little tree which looked little more than a twig had support on four sides which would hold it upright in the fiercest wind. Someday it would put down its own roots and stand on its own but for now he would hold it up.
For the first year of its life he gave it vast amounts of attention. He nurtured the little sapling lovingly and read countless books to learn all he could on its care. He watered it through every hot summer day and mixed special food for it, in the winter he covered it protectively under a house of Styrofoam he built for it himself. The little tree was safe and warm and growing.
On the day he put his beautiful little girl on the big yellow bus for her first trip to all day school he waved and waved until he thought his arm might break. As the tears streamed down his face he realized the bus was gone, long out sight. He slowly dropped his arm to his side and relished the pain he felt in it. That pain told him he was alive in spite of feeling a part of himself die. Slowly he turned and looked across the yard at the little apple tree remembering the day it was planted four years earlier. He trudged across the soft, green cushion of lawn with feet as heavy as his heart, feeling suddenly old and heartbreakingly lonely. With shoulder slumped and hands in his pocket he stood beside it, now nearly as tall as he. He bent down and pulled each stake out of the ground, he then released the decaying rubber of the tire he had cut up so many years ago and soon the ropes that had supported it dropped away. He thought it might wobble or shift to the side but there it was, standing straight and strong, and on it grew.
On his baby’s fourteenth birthday he crept outside to watch the sunrise and then to set up her birthday surprise. Gone was the toddler who wobbled around the yard at his heels, gone was the headstrong 8 year old who believed in angels and spirits and stamped her foot at him, someone new had taken their place. A fiercely independent child/woman had moved into his home. He must have looked the other way for a moment or blinked! He had bought hundreds of balloons that he was going to tie to every branch of every tree in their yard. With his own hands he had made wooden letters and hand painted each one with love for her. Once on their metal rods they would go into the yard. When she came out she would be overwhelmed by the balloons and on the lawn in two foot tall letters she would see “Happy Birthday to My Princess-Love Daddy”. As he sipped his coffee and waited for the light to become fully bright, his eyes were drawn to the little tree now more than ten years in the ground. He blinked then looked again. He rubbed his eyes hard and looked again. Something was wrong! Something was different-he put his coffee cup down with a thud, the hot liquid splashing the deck rail and his hand, and took off running across the yard in his bare feet with his bathrobe billowing behind him. He stopped short and slid in the wet morning grass-blossoms! The little apple tree planted when she was only two was finally in bloom! Later in the day as the sun was setting and the guests had gone he walked with her hand in hand to the apple tree. They sat on the ground and he brought out the pictures. He told her the story of the tree that wasn’t so little any more. He showed her his favorite picture of her, kneeling next to what looked like a twig in the ground. She was leaning into it and gently stroking it newly growing leaves. She smiled the sweet smile that melted his heart each time, kissed him softly on his cheek then moved on.
He stood on the porch fussing with the bow tie at his neck, feeling more uncomfortable in his tuxedo than he could begin to say. He had been looking forward to this day all of her life, anticipating sharing her joy and gazing on the face he loved to look at. But he had been dreading this day far more. How could he do this? How could he walk her down the aisle this afternoon and hand her over to another man who could never be good enough for her. He leaned forward and put his elbow on the deck rail and looked out at the yard he had created for her from the overgrown plot of scrub brush that he had bought all those years ago. His gaze was drawn to the apple tree as it always was when he stood here. After a moment he straightened up and went into the house. Later as he knocked gently on the door of the tiny room in the church where his little girl and her attendants were waiting for the music to start he couldn’t believe that he had gotten here. Where had all those years gone, how could they be over he asked himself over and over. When she saw him she rushed into his arms and buried her soft face into his neck. “Are you happy Daddy?” she whispered. He couldn’t reply not trusting his voice; he just stroked her hair gently just like he had always done. He took her hand and together they walked to the table where her wedding bouquet of white roses and lily of the valley sat waiting for her. He opened the small white box and she smiled softly as she looked inside. Tears sprang to her eyes but didn’t fall as together they gently tucked the soft, pink apple blossoms into her hair as soft as satin.
His heart beat with excitement as he watched her unloading her precious cargo from the back of her car. His baby was bringing him her baby to see for the first time. “I named him Anthony, Daddy, after you!” she had told him in the hospital the day he was born. He wished again like ten million times before that her mother were here to see this, to meet this little guy their daughter had brought into the world. But they had lost her only a month before the little apple tree had gone into the ground to an evil parasite called cancer. Later when little Anthony was sleeping in the room he had prepared for him they walked into the yard together. He walked her to the tree and pointed up at the branches above their heads. She clapped her hands excitedly! “Apples!! Daddy we have apples! But how did it happen? You told me years ago that we would never have apples because we have only one tree. I bet one of your neighbors finally planted one!” The little apple tree that wasn’t so little anymore was bearing fruit after all these years!
She pulled into the driveway in her little red car and sat for a moment trying to catch her breath, she felt like she hadn’t been able to breathe for weeks. She looked down at her long black dress and matching shoes. She opened the door and felt the gravel under her shoes. “Come on Anthony, let’s go in buddy.” She took his tiny soft hand in hers and moved slowly toward the house she knew so well.
“Is Poppy here today Mommy?”
“No baby Poppy isn’t here today I’m sorry. I know you miss him. Poppy is living with the Angel’s now remember Mommy told you that.”
“Do you think Poppy is with Daddy?” asked her little man in a whisper. She looked down at him and smiled gently, he looked so much like his grandfather.
“I am sure of it baby! Poppy and your Daddy are probably sitting by a beautiful river fishing together and looking down on us right now.” She took his hand and walked him over to the apple tree that now stood tall and proud in the yard she loved. Together they sat on the ground and she brought out the pictures she cherished so much then she told him all about the tree. She told Anthony that now they would be moving out of their tiny apartment in the big noisy city. When they were finally living here she was going to plant an apple tree for him so they could watch it grow together, and he would always know that the little apple tree was a gift from her-and Poppy.





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