When I was ten, my father planted a Purple Leaf Plum twig in our backyard on Crockett Street. The roots fit in a coffee can. This plum sprig and I were the same height.
At least once a year, for five years, he took a photo of me standing next to the tree. The tree grew much more rapidly than I did. In some photos the tree was leafless, like an upside down rake, in others, the tension in its burgundy leaves apparent, and in at least one, the tree was in full pinkish-white bloom, the only beauty in our backyard.
Next to it, I looked unkempt, my bangs far too long, my hair shiny with oil, and raggedy clothes picked out of my costume trunk. Underneath these superficialities, the face was too thin which made the eyes and nose and mouth look overlarge and vulnerable–the face of a young teen trying to decide in which direction to run.
The plum tree stood in the center of our backyard because it needed full sunlight. After a heavy rainstorm, the tree’s branches hung to the ground in despair from the beating. I lifted the branches up off the wet grass. Next day the branches were directed skyward again.
We moved away from Crockett Street the summer before I entered tenth grade. Since it was in the backyard, I never saw the tree again. It now belonged to someone else. They say plum trees only live a generation or so, but sometimes a new trunk grows up next to the original and takes over, keeps on living. I like to think that’s what happened with our plum tree.