Happy Anniversary, Ace. Part II

by Alissa

If you haven’t read Part I, start with this.

My life is a pile of rough drafts right now.

My child smells like Labrador retriever, even though we left the home with the lovey lab two days ago.

I have rooms started and half-packed boxes in four different houses right now. Five, if you count the fact that Ace got the keys to our new place yesterday. Well, six, if you count the box that the movers left behind in Waterloo.

Our household shipment is sitting in Cartagena, Colombia, waiting for a trip through the Panama Canal.

My sister (2.5 children, plus a couple of extras today/five weddings to edit) is cooking lunch so I can have 20 minutes to myself to give you Part II.

II.

We planted the tree.

As we sifted through the traditions available to us in the months of planning the wedding, in my mind, the tree became an essential element of the event. Whatever happened at the wedding, whatever happened in our marriage, the tree would be something tangible, living and growing in its basic leaf and wood way.

Ace and my father chose the birch together at the nursery. With the camp director [Mr. L]’s oversight, we chose a spot where I imagined us stopping in the shade of our tree in the summers of our future as we dropped off our hypothetical children for a week of summer bliss in a place where some of my closest friendships and favorite memories were formed.

When we planted the birch, my glowing vision of our golden moment disappeared.

Planting trees is a sweaty, inglorious undertaking at the best of times. In the haphazard evening before the wedding, our special moment fell somewhere between dinner and decorating the hall, and the surprise exit of the groomsmen to the theater in town for the latest Austin Powers movie.

After a hot August afternoon in the back of Ace’s truck, the birch was wilted and drooping. So were we. Scarring the landscape with a pickaxe, Ace and I took turns prying loose the decomposing pine needles, the lichen-covered fallen branches, and stones that filled the hole that would in turn be filled with our tree. Ace, still unaccustomed to forfeiting his own plans for what I thought were our plans, was less than committed. My anger at the Gold Member party enabled me to move surprisingly large rocks, and the planting was over in a matter of minutes.

As I carried buckets of water from the nearest spigot down to the patch of trees that now included our birch, he turned to walk the other way.

[deleted saga of my night of questioning and doubt]

In the morning, Ace came to me to apologize. He hadn’t realized the tree was so important to me. He said he really only it heard it mentioned once or twice, and didn’t understand that I had expected him to be around all night to help set up. There was no time to investigate how this had come to pass. We would have the duration of our married lives to work it out.

The tree planting remained a sore point in both of our memories of the wedding. We stopped in at camp later in the summer to visit my sister in the kitchen, and to water our birch. It leaned weakly in its new hole among the pines, and I was afraid to look too closely at it.

The following summer, we heard that the camp had drilled nearby for a new well and hit an artesian reservoir that dwarfed the previous available water supply. My sister rejoiced in the power to keep the dishwashers working during peak shower times. I asked her to divert some water to the tree, thinking that someday the memory of our misunderstanding would fade, and the tree might become just a nice tree that we planted at our wedding. But mostly I asked her to water it out of a sense of anxiety over the survival of the tree somehow being linked to the outcome of my marriage.

The summer after that, we saw Mr. L at a camp friend’s wedding. After exchanging a warm hug, a look of panic crossed his face, and he confessed, chagrined. Capitalizing on the flow from the new well, the camp had built an extensive new bathhouse.

Directly on the site of our tree.

“They leveled it before I could save it,” he said. “I feel just terrible.”

Ace and I exchanged a glance of relief, even a bit of glee, and tried to respond appropriately solemnly.

Mr. L carried on, “We planted two replacement trees, one for each of you, beside the men’s and women’s entrances.”

We were deeply touched by his concern, by the replacements, but most of all, relieved by the fact that someone else had destroyed the tree.

And it’s quite possible that aside from our present distance, we have never been better.

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