Our red oak stands proud. Its limbs reach for the street and the sky and the front porch all at once. Its canopy offers shelter from the sun. Its leaves shake in spring wind, provide comfort in summer heat, dazzle in autumn sunsets, drop with winter’s first kiss.
That tree grows stronger each year, defying its scrawny first year at home, way back in 2002, when we moved in to our brand-new neighborhood. The tree seemed to struggle at first, showing few signs of progress.
Early spring after early spring, Steve would stand on our front porch, arms crossed, studying the tree. After ample investigation, he’d nod and say, “This is going to be THE year for the tree.”
We’ve endured six springs without Steve. In his absence, at least once a year, I stand before the tree, cross my arms, nod and declare it the year of the tree.
I’ve lived in this home, with that red oak in the front yard, longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. My little family has been a member of this pocket of Frisco, Texas, for almost 13 years.
Living in one place for so long — after three decades of somewhat nomadic behavior — feels comfortable and comforting.
Take last Saturday, for example.
We attended a youth baseball game at our nearby community park. The starting pitcher was third-grader Adam, honorary extra brother in our home. He lives in the house behind ours. I’ve loved him since before he was born.
And now I get to watch him stand tall on the mound, red-white-and-blue cap pulled low, mitt on his left hand, baseball in his right. Strike, ball or hit — it doesn’t matter. That’s our Adam, pitching in a game he’s loved his whole life.
In another neighborhood later that night, I stood in a crowded kitchen, raised a glass and toasted the engagement of Lindsay and Alec. We’ve known Lindsay for five years. Her mom is one of my most honest, most faithful, most hilarious friends.
This family has struggled, but they are now strong.
They all stood together — mom, dad, two sisters, one brother and a brother-to-be — surrounded by people who love them. There were a few sentimental tears, balanced by laughter and infectious smiles.
The soul of this community, of my community, is the people. They are a huge influence in why I remain in this house, with that red oak, even without Steve.
In his final weeks, he was confined to this house. He took his final breaths in our bedroom. Though those memories can be haunting, I’ve never once considered leaving.
Cooper, Katie and I are invested in the people around us. We grieve when a neighbor is diagnosed with cancer, and we rejoice when she is in remission.
We marvel that the young man across the street, who was 5 when we first met, is about to graduate high school. We give thanks for dedicated teachers in every grade, for talented instructors in every instrument, for compassionate coaches in every sport.
With each subsequent year, I expect our roots will grow deeper. I hope that my children feel secure, comforted and protected.
I pray that these years at home, in one place (with a few adventures sprinkled in), give them confidence to stand proud, to reach up and at the same time reach out, to provide comfort to others.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at email@example.com.