The Hummingbird Tree
During winter, it wraps the house like a mean death. A twisting shape trapped, frozen arms tossed upwards to the skies, brittle fingers reaching, clinging to hang on, caught frozen in its final desperate moment of agonies. During spring, it can surprise you. I hurried from the kitchen to fetch young Eli. The house lay stilled at this early hour, with both shades drawn in the front room, so I walked softly to where the staircase lay, cupping hot mocha with both of my hands. I tiptoed slowly up the steep incline, inching my way cautiously, careful to avoid the two steps that creaked loudest. Then after nudging his door open with a shoulder, I entered the boy’s room without spilling a drop of this elixir. Tiny bright pinpricks of light dotted the yellowed blinds, while dark shapes of unkempt things lay about the floor.
Only the boy’s arm stuck out from under the heaped covers. I stopped and stood next to his upper bunk bed, and I waited, holding the brew. I never spoke.
One eye fluttered, and then another peered out from under a tightly furrowed brow. A silent question formed in both eyes, and the boy stirred slightly. His head, first raising an inch, came a little higher. The cup in my hand followed along in his line of sight, matching his movement. He propped himself up on an elbow, and he spoke his mind.
I held it close, and he peered in.
“What is it, dad?”
I set the cup, with its two sugars and a third cream, on his night stand as I explained.
“The hummingbirds have returned.”
Up until now, this thirteen-year old child had never once tasted coffee. I then turned and left my middle son, leaving him to dress and join me outside near the evergreen bush, where white plastic chairs and a round table awaited the two of us. Stopping in the kitchen first to refill my own cup, I rushed out to take a seat in one facing an ancient storage shed behind our house.
Giant fragrant blossoms, shaded from the morning rays of the sun, floated among the leafy bush that, over many years of time, grew to its present impressive stature close to our back door. These flowers of this monster of a plant attracted a pair of feeding hummingbirds, and according to my watch, they were due here any minute.
The trunk of this pervasive encroacher, gnarled and feathery, came up out of the ground like a mythical bean stalk, and had long claimed its rightful place by entwining fast-growing tendrils up and under and around the gutters, even taking the shingled roof over as its own. The storm door squeaked. Eli, shirt untucked, and in the process of learning not to spill, edged his way out slow.
Saturday morning, and traffic is sparse; almost nonexistent. He takes a seat beside me, and the warmth of this fresh new day is shared. He stares vacantly at the grass between us and the shed as he takes his first sip. He sets the cup gently in his lap and looks down at it. Then he looks up at me and smiles his first of the day.
“I like it.”
And then a sudden silent and a flitting, and one appears. It darts from over the ridge of the roof, and its incandescence hovers briefly at one of the brilliant orange blooms living up high. I quietly point to the blurry silhouette outlined against the blue backdrop, and Eli, his broadening shoulders back, looks to see.
He takes another slow sip, his eyes focused hard on the tiny creature, and we both sit and enjoy the life.
This was his time, as I had intended it to be, but we, my young son and I both, will cherish this moment forever.