We had a pink and white dogwood tree in the front yard of our House of Incest. A white branch had been grafted to a pink trunk, resulting in two different colored blossoms. I don’t know if this two-toned tree was rare, but we received many admiring comments.
There is a sense in which I had a lot in common with this tree. I was the wild shoot, grafted on my mother’s new family tree. While the resulting blossoms may have been pretty in the tree, they were not so pretty on me.
From the moment I was torn from my family of origin, transplanted onto foreign soil and expected to thrive, I did just the reverse. I began to wither. My mother, for reasons of her own, wanted me to blend in with her new little family; she would have preferred for outsiders to not know or guess that I came from different origins. Or, if not blend in then at least add something of beauty and grace to raise the value of our family in the eyes of our neighbors.
Oh, what a trial was this! For I simply couldn’t do what she expected of me. I couldn’t pretend to be one of them. Every bone in my body resisted her efforts to make of me something other than my truest self. She suggested this or that, I balked. She frowned disapprovingly at my deft hands, at how quickly they did their kitchen duty (reminding her, as she once confessed, of my father’s deft movements on the drums or with his sketch pad), and I accelerated my movements as much to exasperate her as to hurry with my chores so I could leave the house for the evening.
There was a constant sense of never pleasing my mother. The fact that I would have my father’s sense of humor, that I would be a dreamer like him, that I would concentrate more on the soul of things than I did on practical considerations–how this went against the grain of all she hoped to accomplish! For, obedient as I was, she couldn’t mold me into a clone of herself. Couldn’t change my stubborn determination to take pride in being my father’s daughter. I was the perpetual pebble in my mother’s shoe, and she got that message across to me loud and clear without having to say it in so many words.
Our grafted dogwood tree was pretty in an odd sort of way— though didn’t it just figure that we would be the only ones in our neighborhood to have the tree which stuck out like a sore thumb?
In retrospect, I’m glad for our quirky dogwood tree. My adult self can see the symbolism, for I was the oddity (like the tree) who couldn’t blend in. Something tells me it would have been paramount to selling my soul to the devil had I succeeded in doing so. I can’t help but smile at the fact of my own childhood stubbornness when all I had left to cling to was the tiniest root of my treasured origins.