Island in the City: Family Tree

November 14, 2016

I'm experiencing Fall for the first time. The colors of fallen leaves, it's like the sun grew a pair of legs, learned to dance, and left foot prints all over the street. I was standing under a tree one night and the wind shook all the orange from the branches and left it at my ankles. My favorite things about this season so far are the cool temperatures and changing colors, that and the fact that my mommy is visiting from Guam and staying at my apartment. It'll be her first Fall, too, her first time seeing how I'm doing since I left home. 

 

As the branches above me become bare, I think more and more about how a tree is such a powerful, but often overlooked symbol of self-preservation and survival. These days, so many people portray survival with such aggressive images: the battered athlete, the starving lion, the war-torn soldier. It's like it isn't survival unless there's a conquering involved, but aren't there battles that don't demand blood at all, fights best won by staying wholly intact? Isn't that what lineage is really about: the spreading of roots and standing against the weathering elements? 

 

If we traveled back in time to when my mom was still a young woman, and if you told her that one day she'd be visiting her kids and grand kids in Colorado in the Fall, she probably would have laughed at your face and asked you where the fuck Colorado was! Never in her life would she have imagined that the sacrifices she and my father made as immigrants would eventually lead her here, holding onto my arm beneath these naked trees, trying to keep herself warm. My older brother, my kuya, the eldest of my siblings, just had his first kid, too. Baby Rosa was born healthy and my mom could not have been any happier. 

 

We picked mommy up from the airport and went straight to the hospital so she could see her newest grandchild. There she was, this frail, wrinkly pink thing, and I couldn't help but wonder if that's how my kuya looked coming into the world, too; wondered if mom was transported back into a hot and tiny room, covered in blood, holding her firstborn son, carrying all the wishes a poor mother could afford. My mom told me when we got home that she almost cried when she held Rosa, her firstborn son's firstborn daughter. It was like Rosa new mommy had walked into that room because right when she did, Rosa started crying softly, and immediately after my mom picked Rosa up, she stopped. My mom says Rosa was saying hello, telling her Grandma, I know you're here and I'm glad you are. 

 

And my, how far we've all come, the distance our seeds have traveled, over oceans in rickety boats, through storms in torn up houses; from starving towns to this newborn full of life, Rosa, proof that even a slum can grow to bloom. There we were, standing in Saint Joseph Hospital, another grandchild added to the line of us, another small but heavy point in our family history, quiet like the Fall, but alive like all the trees that watched us walk forward. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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November 14, 2016

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