That Lovely Little Tree

I haven’t written anything in a long while here.

It’s been a tumultuous year, with many ups and some downs. At work, it’s been stressful, mostly. Some pretty negative elements permeating a lot of what I do, in little ways. On some days, I feel like work is a death by a thousand cuts. On better days, I feel like I can actually maybe even get something done that is important and meaningful. On the best day, I’m excited to leave the house to get there. But those best days have been few and far between over the last year or so. I’ve come home discouraged more often than not, needing time and space to sort out how to approach whatever challenges that will still be there in the morning to be tackled. I’ve had sleepless nights, tossing and turning, ruminating and worrying. I admit, I’ve been a present – but distracted – mother.

The weight of work – along with my own reactions to things that happen and the emotions I carry with me – well, it’s all felt very heavy to say the least. And every time I’ve sat down to write about life with Georgia, I’ve worried that whatever I write will just end up mostly being about life with me.

There have been ups though. Well, lots of ups actually. In September, Georgia’s parents got married (oh yes we did!). And then, in April, Georgia’s dad became her for-real dad, and – boom! – our family was solidified, legalized, recognized. It was a wonderful culmination of all that we have hoped and worked for: A court room full of smiling people in tears, each so touched by Georgia and all so happy for us.

Through all of this tumult, Georgia has remained, well, Georgia. Like a lovely solid little tree you plant in the garden and water, forgetfully, robotically, watering can in hand while you’re making a grocery list or thinking how to answer to an email. You walk by the tree every day on your way out and you take note, while preoccupied with other things, that it’s still standing. Then one day you look at that little tree and you stop – taken aback. That same little tree is now in full blossom, growing taller than the fence, flourishing quietly and earnestly.

Georgia has just continued to do the things that Georgia does. And to love the things Georgia loves. And in that earnestness, she has flourished. She’s gone to the Beatles tribute show, Rain, and enjoyed it more than anyone else in the whole concert hall. She’s chosen a dress online and jewelry for a wedding and an adoption party. She’s insisted on wearing a pair of fancy dress shoes all night with pure joy even though her feet were hurting. She’s spent a night in Niagara Falls chilling in front of a basketball game on television eating pizza on a pull out couch in a hotel room. She’s fed Dorothy the dog most mornings and has been our grocery Sherpa with her giant tricycle basket, many times. She’s learned to read about a hundred more words than she knew last time I wrote anything here. She’s adopted a whole bunch of fancy new conversational tactics including the ubiquitous adolescent response, “I dunno” with a sly half-smile. She’s got a wonderful workplace opportunity at school, as a dining room assistant in a local restaurant. She’s learned to put on socks by herself.

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(Incidentally, of all those great accomplishments, the socks are the bomb, folks. Seriously. If you only knew just how difficult it is to learn to put on socks when you have motor planning challenges, consistently clammy feet, a general lack of patience and a low threshold of frustration. I have no memory of learning to put on socks myself, but I have plenty of memories of the multi-person efforts and processes we’ve put in place to help Georgia learn to put her socks on – the best sock memory being the day I handed her socks that I would help her put on, got distracted for a moment and returned to find her, fully socked and ready to go forth.)

The thing with Georgia is that, despite whatever else is going on in our lives, she remains a constant. She’s my grounding force and the common denominator for everything else in my life. In some ways, her constancy can be frustrating or, at times, annoying. She’ll repeat the same phrase time after time if faced with something that is frustrating or anxiety-causing for her. She’ll play the same loud “crying baby” video on her iPad until we have to insist she watch something else, anything else. She’ll ask you if you let her, one thousand times a day, whether or not you think that something is funny. Repetition, sameness and constancy are qualities she embraces and seeks out. She has loved many of the same songs since she was a toddler. She carries the same books with her wherever she goes, and embraces many of the same rituals each and every day. That sameness, while at times, frustrating, can be a wonderful anchor in a disorderly world.

And the best part of it is that while you’re focused momentarily on that sameness, she goes and changes and evolves on you and there you are. She does this now a lot of the time, without me right there, helicoptering around her. She chops onions. She learns to read. She memorizes the bus and streetcar route numbers. She finds the radio station she likes on her own and relaxes on her bed, listening to her favourite show. She washes her own hair. She gets a job. She goes to dances. She meets people and forges friendships that you only find out about afterwards, if you find out at all.

The other day we were driving in the car to go grocery shopping. Adele’s Hello came on the radio. I asked her if she knew who was singing and, yes, she did. I asked her if she knew the song. No reply. And then out of nowhere, as we sat in the car at a stoplight with the windows open, came the powerful chorus in the song, and suddenly this kid in the passenger seat was positively belting it out with Adele. Boom. I was speechless. People in cars beside us turned to look. It was like she’d been practicing the song for weeks, but I knew she hadn’t. She just kept that to herself until she wanted to let it out and let me see. It was, in a word, impressive. And until that moment, wonderfully covert.

The thing with that lovely little tree is that there’s a whole bunch to it you can’t see and that, occasionally you forget about. The intricate and strong roots, the tiny growth within the blossom buds, the leaves that are working their way to full bloom. You go about your day, and sometimes don’t pay much attention to the constant presence of that tree in your garden, that day after day is just there, just doing it’s own thing.

And then one day you come outside and stop where you stand, in awe, with the watering can, forgotten, dripping water onto your shoes while you take it all in. The branches of that lovely little tree are full of beautiful pink blossoms and green leaves with branches reaching out and reaching forth and you come to know that, well, really separate from you, and yes, even in spite of you, it’s been busy achieving wonderful things and, while looking like it’s standing very still and constant, is inevitably heading at a high speed in every direction, towards all kinds of new heights.

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One thought on “That Lovely Little Tree

  1. Hi Nancy – I am so happy for you, your husband and Georgia and how she’s become a young lady thanks to the love and support of her family. I enjoy reading your columns that your sister Jan sends to me. Thank you for sharing this remarkable journey. Love. your cousin, Diane

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