|TITLE: The Weeping Willow|
By Leola Ogle
Now my branches sway in listless melancholy. Even the melody of birds that make their home in my branches can’t lift my sorrow. I miss the times of a little boy playing beneath my shade and climbing my branches. I was his fortress. He believed my drooping branches hid him from the world. My leaves danced with the sound of his laughter, then sagged with empathy during his tears.
My favorite memories are when his sister, Becky, was born. Aaron was five. Grandfather planted a peach tree near me to commemorate her birth. Although this tree would provide them with delectable fruit, I am the one both chose as their play area.
Aaron was special, but Becky even more so. She was born with a mind that would always remain a child. Aaron loved her all the more because of it. Many days he laid aside his toy soldiers and cowboys, and cars and trucks to participate in Becky’s tea party.
“Aaron, have a tea party with me.” He would sit at the wooden picnic table their father had made especially for Becky. Aaron would lift the plastic cup and saucer and pretend to sip. Sometimes Becky really did have tea or lemonade, and cookies on tiny plates. Tea parties with her brother were Becky’s favorite thing. Their giggles caused my leaves to vibrate with joy. Even the birds’ melody was sweeter.
Aaron’s love for his sister never waned. As he got older and outgrew toys, he never refused to sit under my branches and sip tea with Becky. It’s what little girls do. It was something he understood and accepted. As she grew, her plastic cups and saucers were replaced by porcelain. For her sixteenth birthday, Aaron sent her home a set of Royal Albert fine china he bought in England during his tour of duty with the Army.
When war broke out, Aaron’s plane was shot down. For months, his family didn’t know if he was dead or alive. Only Becky believed beyond a doubt that he would return. She set her fine china on the table under my branches and spoke to God. “When you bring Aaron home, God, we’ll have tea in my beautiful cups he sent me.”
One day a fierce storm hit. The violence of the wind broke off some of my branches. I tried my best to shelter Becky. She had sat out her tea set and was having imaginary conversations with Aaron. By the time her family noticed she wasn’t in the house, she was soaked and chilled to the bone.
She was very ill, and for many weeks she didn't come to sit beneath my branches. So somber was the countenance of everyone in the farmhouse, I feared she’d never return. One day, a man came slowly walking towards me. He had a limp, and was so thin. A young beautiful lady walked beside him.
As they drew closer, I recognized in that drawn face the vestiges of the boy I knew. The lovely lady was his bride, the daughter of the farmer who found Aaron and nursed him back to health after his plane was shot down.
They chatted amiably as she, Paulette, set out the tea set. She arranged crumpets and scones on a plate and poured tea into cups from a teapot laced with delicate roses. Aaron’s parents helped Becky to the table, bracing her on either side. It was the most marvelous tea party ever.
They’re all gone now, every one of them. Grandfather and Grandmother were the first to go, then Aaron’s parents. Even as an old woman, Becky had many tea parties with Aaron’s and Paulette’s daughters and granddaughters. When Aaron and Becky departed this earth, his sons sold the farm. No more children came to sit beneath my leaves or climb my branches.
On nights when the howling wind rustles my leaves with a mournful sound, I can still recall the clink of cups on saucers as Becky’s giggles summon Aaron. I hear the sigh of acquiescence from a boy who understood the importance of tea parties with his sister.