Rose’s Tree Mama

Rose’s Tree Mama
By Nayoung Jin

Ever since Rose was a little girl, she had a tree mama. Her tree mama was quite a noisy, chatty mama, with a lot of laughter and dance moves—shake-shake.

On the days when her mom was a bit late in getting home, Rose stood by the window and waited for her. As she did so, the clock ticking sounded especially loud. The tree mama’s presence, however, made it more bearable for Rose.

Sometimes, Rose saw how the sun changed, first turning into the reddish orange, then getting smaller and smaller and smaller until it completely disappeared. Even then, Rose did not feel too anxious because the tree mama was waiting with her.

In summer, as the tree mama watched over her, Rose rolled down the hill or played with dogs from the neighborhood. Rose sometimes slept on the thickest branch of her tree mama. It felt safe and cool.

But when the wild dogs barked or the heavy rain started, the tree mama would always put Rose safely back inside Rose’s bedroom, through the window.

And whenever Rose awoke in the middle of the night, she would look through the window at her tree mama, who is strong and sound, and feel all right. The tree mama would then rustle her leaves to comfort Rose, and Rose would soon fall back asleep, this time in a deep, dreamless sleep.

“What’s up there?” Rose asked one day, looking out the window and pointing to a forest nearby.
“Everything,” said Tree Mama.
“Have you ever been to the mountain?” Rose pointed right, at the mountain.
“No,” said Tree Mama.
“Have you ever been to the sea?” Rose pointed left, at the sea.
“No,” said Tree Mama. “But I’m content, for here is my home. It always has been.”
Rose smiled, imagining the little tree, as small as she.

Several years later, Rose had to move to another city with her mom. It meant she had to leave her tree mama. Rose’s heart broke in half.
“Why don’t you take some of my leaves?” Tree Mama said.
Rose nodded. She took some leaves and put them between pages of her favorite book, then said goodbye.

Rose left, looking back again and again at her old, familiar home.

When Rose grew up and became part of a big, crowded city, her tree mama was always present in her dreams—day or night. Along with her child self. The merry self.

The leaves she had collected from her tree mama were dry and crumbling by now, so she made them into the bookmarks, each laminated nicely. She used them whenever she read good books at the library.

As an old woman, Rose often walked by the forest near her place. Doing so would bring forth the liveliness of her young spirit. ‘I had loved two mamas,’ she said to herself, remembering fondly her childhood villa and the tree that reached toward her through the bedroom window, on the second floor.

She did not tell this to anyone, not even her beloved man. The memory was only hers to cherish, in the pleasant quietness of morning.

There’s Always

There’s Always

by Nayoung Jin

Sitting in the grass
on a rainy day
this little wild bird
wet, hungry, trembling
lets a girl scoop her up gently
and take her toward the warmth
and maybe more. . . .

On the fourth floor,
this young man sits in pain and despair,
but while his fingers dance on the keys of the piano
fast and effortless,
the world sort of makes sense.
And so he pours his heart out, even giving away his fragility. . . .

And somewhere in the sea
a 6-year-old child orca
swiftly crosses the water
with his mom.
They’re among the few killer whale families who survived.
Ships nearby make way for the two.

I play, I hide.
Mom you come seek.

I play, I hide.
Mom you come seek.

I play, I hide—
Aw, Mom!

Then together they breathe out fountains of water
the white blossoms. . . .

There’s always a hand to touch you.
And there’s always a game for us to play.
Or there’s always something to light you up
like the sun that starts spring just around the corner.

. . . So just keep going and don’t turn back.