Floyd’s Thankful Tree
Beeeeeeeeeep! “Hey! Watch where you’re going!”
I was awake, but between the tears clouding my vision and the sorrow drenching my heart, I didn’t notice I’d drifted into the next lane. It was one day until my son’s birthday and one week before school—not a great time to move, but I had no choice. I never fathomed it would come to this.
I took a chance on the house. It was on the reservation where I grew up, where I could get help. It was big, and it was cheap, because of its history. And, I had no other choice.
A missionary lived here once. He betrayed my tribe and one day he disappeared. Officials searched his home and found nothing, but it was never torn down. Rumors said the missionary kept several boys instead of turning them over to the agents. No one knew why. It’s all speculation, nothing more.
“What do you think, Son?” He rested against my leg. I couldn’t tell if he was thinking or was exhausted from the move and the anxiety. “We’ll fix it up, no worries.”
The place had potential. The fence needed maintenance and, in truth, so did everything. “The movers aren’t far behind. When they get here, we’ll start on your room. Okay?”
Still no words, just the same blank expression. Since the accident he’d barely spoken. I never expected he’d react like this. “Let’s look around.”
I held my hand out, but he stood still, his feet frozen to the ground. I picked him up.
As we walked around the house, I tried to stay positive. I worried about what was going on in Liam’s head. If only he’d talk.
The paint was faded and some of the brick needed replacing. Some of the porch needed patching up. However, the yard was big and a tree stood in the back that looked perfect for climbing, a good tree for a tree house. I couldn’t bring that up because that’s a dad thing, right?
We entered through the back door into the kitchen. There were so many windows! I was delighted I could always see Liam. The window above the sink gave me a view of that big tree.
“Knock knock,” said the realtor as she let herself in.
“I see you made it.”
“The moving truck was following me.”
“Well, you didn’t forget your way home.”
“Mom?” Liam interrupted.
“Can I play outside?”
“Stay close. I’ll need your big muscles soon.”
“Ok.” He gave me a thin smile and ran into the backyard.
The movers began to bring in our things. Back in the kitchen, the realtor was watching my son as he sat in the tree, the tree I could see from the window.
“Gorgeous tree, isn’t it? Has potential for a tree house, don’t you think?”
“Sure does, and your son seems to like it.”
There he sat, on a limb, talking to himself, even laughing a little.
“Well then, if you don’t have questions, I’ll be on my way.”
“No questions now.”
“You know where to reach me.”
“Woo! Liam. Hi! You startled me,” I said.
“Can we put tobacco down?”
“Of course, but why?” I didn’t remember including Liam in such an event.
“Yea, Mom. To thank Creator and Dad for our new home and making it here safe. And for my new friend.”
“New friend? You made a friend already?”
We did as Liam suggested at the base of his tree. “Ready to start on your room? Then you can invite your friend over.”
“Yup!” He took my hand.
Before we knew it, the movers were gone, the sun had set, and our bellies rumbled. It seemed Liam was adjusting to it being just us and strangely, he didn’t seem down at all. My phone buzzed.
“It’s Grandma and Grandpa. Want to talk to them?”
“Not now. Floyd can’t visit them with me.”
“Ok, but who’s Floyd?”
“My new friend.”
I didn’t ask questions for fear I’d push him away. I didn’t answer the phone. We were doing fine and the in-laws never accepted me anyway. “Are you excited for school?”
“Floyd said he’d show me around.”
“Great! Don’t worry; you’ll fit in.”
“Mom, can we smudge the house?”
“How do you know about smudging?” I assumed Floyd had explained, but I wanted to hear it myself.
“Yea, Mom. Floyd said bad things happened here.”
“Okay, Son.” We smudged the upstairs, downstairs, basement, and ourselves. I’m glad he brought it up. It was one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had.
I woke up before my alarm sounded. Before I could sit up, tears rushed from my eyes. I missed Clayton. My heart ached.
I tried to wipe away the tears before he noticed. It was three weeks since the accident and it wasn’t getting easier. “Did you sleep well?”
“Floyd said it’s okay to cry, but not too long. Floyd said if I love Dad, his life is something to celebrate.”
“You’re right Son. I forgot that.”
“Guess what, Mom? We have three things to celebrate—my birthday, Dad, and Floyd’s birthday!”
“That will be one big cake! Let’s go into town and find one.”
“I’m already dressed!”
We found a cake and some decorations. I wanted the house to look presentable. Liam waited in his tree while I prepped for the party. I realized Liam was unfamiliar with everyone I invited.
As Liam sat down in front of his cake, he asked if the chair next to him could be Floyd’s. I wondered if Floyd would come, since it was his birthday and surely he’d be with his family.
Liam closed his eyes and blew out the candles. We cheered, but Liam sat with his eyes closed.
“Bye, Floyd,” he whispered.
I wasn’t sure if anyone else heard, but I did.
“Mom! My wish came true! I wished Floyd could go home to his family and he did! It came true!”
Rhiannon Boyd (Menominee-Oneida) is a mother of three and a student at College of Menominee Nation.