It is March. Which means in Texas wildflowers dot the side of every road, tiny green buds are emerging from our empty tree limbs, and I put my lawn care guy back into rotation because here comes the grass.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to the kids about something or other in Virginia, and Gavin goes: “Isn’t that one of those places where the leaves change colors?” Bless my Texan babies. Colorful leaves are something only children in picture books get. We don’t get an orange, red, and yellow fall. We get green most of the year then brown and dead. That is what we have.
I live on a super-old property in a super-old house. It was built in 1908 a block from the railroad which you have heard on every podcast and interview I’ve ever done. Besides transoms and original shiplap, the other common feature in this “downtown Buda” neighborhood is pecan trees. They are so majestic. All of them well over a hundred years; grand old girls. I have twelve in my yard, and I dote on them like a helicopter mom. I have them trimmed regularly, kill junk trees that might steal their nutrients, make sure their canopies are always up. I am solidly on record here as an over-involved tree enthusiast.
However, pecan trees are not only the first to lose their leaves in the fall, but they’re also the last to display fresh new buds in the spring. All around them, the live oaks are turning green, the crepe myrtles are budding, my photinia shrubs are turning red at the tips. And my pecan trees remain stubbornly barren, a spindly tangle of empty branches that belong in a Tim Burton movie. All of central Texas will be snow-pea green and my pecans are still as bleak as winter.
Sydney has told me for years she wants to get married in the backyard someday, thus we’ve tracked the annual return of the leaves to plan our future wedding calendar, and the verdict is in: We don’t have green trees until the last week of April, and if you remove our propensity for exaggerating “new growth,” more like mid-May. I have mowed my overzealous spring lawn a dozen times before a single leaf emerges.
But when pecan trees bloom, boy do they.
Just this week, I told Tyler: “I’m feeling blue,” but as I have a Ph.D. in diminishing hard feelings, I quickly added: “It’s random and nonspecific.” He doesn’t generally let me get away with half-baked missives; it is one of his worst qualities. I never get to be passive aggressive, vague, or emotionally dismissive. He forces us into deeper waters when all I really wanted to do was stir the surface tension.
Pressed into analysis, I identified the recurring feeling and traced it back to its source: it is Spring Break.
All my kids are gone doing Spring Break things, and this has historically been the week we went to the lake house – the fam, the rowdy teenage crew, our friends and family drifting in. Spring Break marked opening season for all my favorite things: the lake, the boat, the teenagers, a million hours in the kitchen, towels drying on the pier, books on the dock, Mandatory Twilight Cruise, the water that wasn’t quite warm enough yet but kids don’t care, man. It was everything good. I can feel the happiness in my bones.
I remember thinking every year: “Look at this. This is what I have. All my dreams are right here in this noisy, obnoxious house overlooking the lake with everyone I love most in the world. I will always have this. These people and this place. This is mine. Everything I’ve ever wanted.” Our last Spring Break out there was three years ago to the day.
And of course, the marriage is gone, the kids are grown, the house is sold, and this week has been quiet. I just worked alone in this house; my very first Spring Break since kindergarten that wasn’t a Spring Break. Sometimes I really miss it all, the life I had and thought I’d keep having. I didn’t know the Family Years would expire. It didn’t know it would all be over. I cherish so much about where I’m at, what I have, what is ahead, but I am also haunted by the losses I didn’t even know I would lose.
I sat on my porch swing wrapped in a blanket yesterday and looked at my stubborn pecan trees.
Why does new life sometimes take longer than we want?
Other trees are blooming already. It has been over 80 degrees for a month. That’s enough time. I should see more green shoots by now. The calendar says March, so statistically, it is time for everything to come back to life. This is the natural agreement. Away with these bleak branches. Things have been brown and brittle long enough.
Some days I am an absolute live oak blooming at the first kiss of spring. I’ve done that. Parts of my life got an A+ in recovery and wasted no time blossoming in new ways. Those early shoots were so promising, as they happened to be located on branches predisposed toward growth. They just were. I took to financial independence, embodiment practices, and career restructuring like a fresh new bloom to the sun.
Other days I am a pecan tree, frustrated that an old sorrow can still catch me by the throat and leave me gasping. This again? This still? Shouldn’t I have worked through this already? Aren’t I on the other side of this yet? Hasn’t this part of the winter story moved toward spring by now? Other branches are blooming. The calendar says March. I thought we had an agreement.
In some ways, new life is predictable. It will come. It always has. We can trust the process. We’ve seen it happen a lot of times, spring after spring.
Eventually, brown turns to green. But inside that mysterious alchemy, sometimes new life doesn’t show up until mid-May, hell, practically summer already. Just takes a little longer. Best not to compare it to the other trees; they have a different thing going on.
I’ve decided to be patient with the parts of me slowest to recover, and you should be with yours. What does new growth look like on those particular limbs? Well, we’re not even sure. We’re just not to it yet. Those need a bit more time. New life doesn’t always cooperate with the calendar. Some sorrows hang onto winter longer than we wish.
But when they bloom, boy do they.