The Surviving Tree in the Forest

I looked around the box-filled house and sighed. I needed to fill everything I owned along with my five-month-old daughter’s baby things into the back of my dad’s Toyota truck and crammed in my yellow Volkswagen. I didn’t own much to speak of at the time that was of value; most important were my childhood books, my volumes of poetry and classics, and my TV and VCR.

For my young daughter, whose needs were primarily consumables like Pampers and food along and a few favorite toys, I felt she would survive. She wanted the comfort of me and some kind of a schedule, and she was a good girl. She kind of had to be as I was filled with apprehension about moving and starting a new life in Myrtle Beach, SC, the place my parents had semi-retired to.

I was about to enter another world kicking and screaming, but strangely steady in the whirlwind that was sure to come. In fact, I was just striving forth with boldness, assuming we would be the surviving trees in the forest of unknown tangle. I had no monetary support other than myself and the generosity of my father who had agreed to move me.

In short, I was leaving our home in St. Louis, MO after several years of living there, mostly quite happily. I had received my BA in Literature and Language from Webster University and I was trained to teach English. I was also about to be divorced from perhaps the most worthless man on the planet who had left our domicile two weeks after Maria was born. Our split was mutual, he had never wanted a child and was not sympathetic or caring during or after my pregnancy and in addition, had failed to find regular work since my daughter had been born. The relationship had been a bust from start to finish, but had produced a child I totally adored. So I was alone and not alone.

And I was scared, very scared and running by my coattails and by the skin of my teeth. I had no idea of what the future might hold, if and when I would get a job and the prospect of living with my parents even for a short time since leaving home at 18 was terrifying. On the other hand, my dad was offering a lifeline and I wanted Maria to be around family. Luckily I had my health and this beautiful little girl and in my mind, that was enough. Boy was I naïve.

The move was stressful for two major reasons. One was that moves across the country are always stressful and with a baby in tow. Also I had a worthless yellow Volkswagen that had not been highway tested in my short time of ownership and the process did not go well. On day one the car gave out three times and after costly repairs was running very badly. The first night in a motel when we had not gone near the distance I had hoped, my dad just looked at me in that withering way he had and I felt horrible. Why had I agreed to a move with such a horrible car? I had no idea. On the second day, it became evident that the mechanics of the battery and inner workings of the car were gone and car and my father and I took literally took turns switching batteries to go 40 miles at a time. This went on until we got to Smokey Mountain National Park where I had to abandon the car in the visitors Center (I called the junkyard). I simply didn’t have the means to do anything else. So yet another night on the road and on day three here was the scenario. I was holding my daughter in my arms with my TV beneath my seat. It had been raining for the past two days of the move but on the third day the sun came out. I had to live with the reality that my whole future was a question mark. I was dependent on my father who I had not been dependent on for 10 years and with a little baby to boot. I had very little money and I was scared and humiliated. But I pressed on.

In the south I saw a new world in the form of tobacco fields and cotton fields. My dad had made a point both previous nights, regarding how “good” I was with my daughter and how she seemed to be thriving in my care. That made me happy as compliments from my dad were hard to come by. We arrived at my parent’s condo the late afternoon of the third day and I was exhausted. But I had to keep it together. Luckily I had sent my parents money I had made from substitute teaching so they had some money for my “upkeep” as it were for a short time. I was 28 and very independent. Or was I? If I truly were, would my father have been hauling all my worldly goods over 1000 miles in the rain leaving my car at a National Park with a baby in tow? And me without a job? Independent indeed.

The next month was hard. I found a job in a nearby school and gritted my teeth through it until I could afford to move out. My dad bought me a very used car. The whole process took only six weeks. But I learned about myself. I learned that I could weather storms. I learned that I could be independent and provide a decent living for my daughter. I learned that circumstances would not dim my yearnings for something better. I finally learned how to be one of those surviving trees in the forest. And we were going to flower.

Clover Mahoney

Clover Mahoney has been writing for over 30 years, both fiction, non-fiction and poetry. She has had several publications first for poetry in journals such as The Southern Poetry Review and The Alabama Literary Review. She has also had non-fiction articles published in popular blogs. Clover is from the midwest, and has moved a lot, but now lives in NC where she teaches college English and writes. She is married and has a rescue mutt named Zoe.

Image courtesy of Yasin Hoşgör.

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