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April 2012

I wasn't going to write about this, but...

..I'm finding it nearly impossible to write about anything else until I get this off my chest: I got a new tattoo this week.  No, it wasn't a quick decision or some sort of dare.  It is something I've wanted my entire life.  I have others which also have meaning to me, but this one holds the most in my heart. 

I've always had a thing for trees.  They're strong, beautiful beings that can withstand a ton of horrible weather and still grow beautiful leaves, flowers, fruit.  Their roots hold them in place and keep them grounded while letting them blossom into the tallest, widest thing they want to be.  It's completely understandable to me why they symbolize family in a lot of situations.  Family trees, finding your roots, etc. 

My husband knows about my love for trees- red maples to be more specific.  He gave me the most beautiful red maple as a wedding present almost 11 years ago.  We planted it at the house we lived in at the time.  It was such an organically symbolic gesture of his love for me...  I didn't ever have any doubts about marrying him, but when he gave me that tree I felt like nothing could stand in our way.  We were unstoppable.

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Our marriage was just beginning.  We traveled.  We had parties. We always laughed a lot.  Soon later our daughter was born.  We played in sprinklers near our tree.  We took pictures and held the tree as part of our family, too.  Our daughter knew how much we loved her.

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Soon later, I became pregnant with our second child.  This time, it was different.  Something didn't feel right.  I was happy to feel another baby in our future, but I had these terrible feelings that it wasn't meant to be.  I was afraid the entire time.  I visited the doctor several times with these worries.  Everything was fine, he said.  Until it wasn't.

We lost the baby at about 9 weeks.  I thought it wouldn't bother me, because it was "only" 9 weeks.  Bullshit.  Not only did it bother me, it crushed me.  I felt like a shell.  I remember mindlessly going into the kitchen for a snack and picking up one of those prenatal mommy bar things.  I opened it and took a bite and immediately broke down on the kitchen floor.  I didn't have to eat them anymore.  I was no longer pregnant.  

My daughter was little when it happened.  She was OK.  She was sad for Daddy and me, but she wasn't really sure why.  She knew the baby had gone back up to God, but she didn't really have a handle on what that meant.  I'm glad for that.  

It took me a while to feel comfortable in my own skin again.  I was afraid to go through that type of empty pain another time.  My loving husband patiently waited.  I finally accepted the emptiness and learned to use it positively.  2 1/2 years later, we had our son.

The four of us make a good team, I must say.  We don't all like the same things all the time, but we live in harmony.  We're like different parts of the tree.  Our pasts are our roots which got us here.  Trunk, branches, leaves, flowers, fruits... it's beautiful.

Soon after our son was born and we decided to move, a strange thing happened.  We had just decided to sell our house when we noticed part of our little tree was dying.  We tried to take care of it and nurse it back to health, but it couldn't be saved.  But the strangest part was, we weren't really sad.  It felt like it was supposed to happen.  The day before we packed up to leave, we looked outside to see a couple tiny saplings under our tree.  Of course, we dug one up and brought it to our new house.  It's planted outside right now and doing great. Our first tree moved on, just like we did.  But we were able to take a part of it with us onto the next chapter of our life.

Back to the tattoo.  As you can imagine, I got a tree.  It's as symbolic as you can get when it comes to tattoos.   I drew it to represent my family.  It's my family tree and I love it.

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Do you see what I see?

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I'm sure every parent thinks this way.  My kids are different when we're alone.  They let go and act natural with me.  They take off their shoes and walk barefoot through the house with relaxed shoulders.  They graze the fridge for interesting snacks like black bean dip and carrot sticks.  With others, they straighten up and speak quietly.  They smile and act shy.  They open up only on occasion.

I wonder which version is truly them.  Is my son's snuggly human crack-up disposition the real deal?  Or is he being true to himself when he's at school and I can't see?  Does his best friend in the world know him better than I do?  Does my daughter sing the Star Spangled Banner with feeling as she walks to the lunch room?  Am I the only one who can read her mind? 

They're still little so I think I'm seeing them in their truest form.  They still feel at home when they're at home.  I know they are growing and soon the tables will turn.  My arms could soon repel them as much as they attract them now.  I'll only think I know what their favorite colors are or what type of music they prefer.  I'll undoubtedly find out how wrong I am with some snippy backtalk or cold shoulder.

So right now, I'll just ponder it and not really worry too much about what my kids are like when they're not with me.  I don't need to be a fly on the wall.  I'll save that worry for their first dates and job interviews.  Hopefully, they'll both still come home and tell me all about them, too.