The one day I wished I could weep. It was autumn again. My browning leaves danced in a strong wind. The field was harvested and the sun was spending fewer hours in my sight. Tommy sat upon the wooden board suspended from one of my thickest branches. An older man, white hair and a knowing face, came with them one day in the summer to string up the swing with two thick lengths of rope. Tommy called him Papa and was his shadow as the man worked. When I was holding the swing securely, Papa placed Tommy on it and showed him how to work his little legs to propel forward and backward. It took some practice but soon Tommy could do it without aid. He’d reach the limits of the swing’s arc and stretch his toes out to tap my strands of leaves hanging in front of him at that height.
That day, Tommy rode the swing while Carly laid on her back in the sunshine just outside my circle of shade. I saw her shiver a bit in the wind, wrapping her yellow sweater a little tighter around herself. She’d roll her head to the side to check on her boy then back toward the sun directly above her. Carly looked sad more and more in those days. She was quick to lift her pretty mouth into a smile when Tommy came to her. She did not know that I watched her face in between the smiles.
When she saw Tommy slowing the swing, scuffing his shoes on the grass beneath him, Carly announced it was time for lunch. She set about unpacking the basket they brought along but Tommy didn’t hop off the swing as I expected him to do when the food was in sight. His eyes were fixed on some distant spot along the edge of the field. Carly called to him twice before walking over to see what kept his attention. She turned to follow his gaze and he lifted an arm to point.
A figure was coming into view, a man. Slowly, slowly. I saw Carly’s mouth form a little circle; then a gasp and tears before the man was even close enough to see with any clarity. It didn’t matter; she knew. She knew and she ran. A sprint along that grassy path, one shoe slipping off with no notice from its wearer. By the time she reached him, I too could see that it was William. Our William. He was home.