Jewish World Review Oct. 25, 2002 / 19 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Relationship rooted in willow talk | I guess you never realize how important a weeping willow tree is to your marriage until it's too late. I'm not saying the better half and I need marriage counseling - yet - but things aren't the same since the willow has been gone.

The aging willow in the backyard was more integral to our relationship than we knew. I would get up each morning, shower, start the coffee and the better half would appear and say, "Good morning."

I would answer, "Good morning. The willow needs to go."

He would respond, "Toast me a bagel, too. The willow stays."

It was as natural as loathing the IRS and looking forward to weekends. We'd read the paper, discuss the day's news, compare our schedules. He'd grab his briefcase and leave for downtown, saying, "Have a good day. The willow is looking fine."

I'd kiss him goodbye and say, "You have a good day, too.The willow has rigor mortis."

And so it went. Eating, sleeping, working, all interspersed with willow talk. He'd come home from work and say, "How was your day?"

I'd say, "Good, and yours?"

He'd start sorting the mail and say, "Good. The willow stays"

"Hungry?" I'd ask. "The willow goes."

A lot of evenings after dinner, we'd drift out to the patio to examine the willow from different angles. "Looks more dead than alive from the southeast," I'd say. "Yes, but when the sun hits it from low on the horizon, you can see a lot of live growth still up high," he'd answer.

Sometimes the neighbors would join. Two doors down, a friend would shout, "Your willow is looking mighty mangey!" I'd give her a little wave and make a hatch mark in the air, scoring a win for my side. About that time the neighbor to the east would holler, "What a fine shade tree," canceling out the mangey remark.

Every now and then for kicks my husband and I would switch sides on the willow debate. "A thing of beauty," I'd say. "What an eyesore," he'd counter. "All that dead wood looks like a giant claw rising from the ground."

"Squint both eyes," I'd say. "It looks like a beautiful fountain."

"What if that big dead branch breaks off in the next storm?" he asked one night.

"Well, if it falls in our direction, we'll have a lot of firewood. If it falls in the neighbor's direction it will probably take out their kitchen, family room and master bedroom."

"Think they'd try to collect damages?"

"Probably," I said. "People tend to get touchy about having their home demolished."

The tree removal crew numbered ten in all. The crew boss gazed up at the tree and said, "Why ya takin' it down?"

"Because it's half-dead," I said. "You even said so when you gave us the estimate."

The crew boss' wife whispered in my ear, "He hates taking down trees. Makes him sick." Wow, I thought, talk about a vocational misplacement.

My husband taped 30 minutes of video of the tree coming down - the ropes, the saws, the branches being dragged to the chipper. I made a video of my husband splitting the wood and stacking it along the perimeter. Once in awhile we pop the video in and try to generate a little willow talk, but it's not the same. The spark is gone.

Yesterday I was looking at the big ugly stump left behind and said, "We ought to rent a grinder and chew that thing up."

"No," he said. "We ought to turn it into a planter for marigolds."

"Grinder," I said. "Planter," he said.

It feels good to be back to normal.

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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman