Friday, June 1, 2012

The Friendship Oak

Probably a maple tree but the closest thing I had in my picture album.
From beneath the shade of the ancient oak tree, the child separated herself from the world around her. In some ways, it was a self-exile, a way of escaping a world that was often cruel and hard to understand, but in truth, the truth that lay in the darkest corners of the child’s heart, the separation was a painful one.

For some, friendship came easy. Girls with perfect pink dresses and overflowing wells of self-confidence skipped along the playground, chatting and giggling and owning recess with their entire beings.

For her, friendship was a constant battle. She latched on to those popular girls with their perfect pink dresses, worshiping them as princesses and fueling their already secure self-esteem. Some days, the days when they needed her around, they would welcome her into their inner-circle, make her feel a part of their secret world. Other days, as if she were a pesky fly, they would swat her away, uninterested in her shy, bookish ways, unconcerned about her feelings and her paper-thin heart.

And so, she made friends with the squirrels and the occasional stray cat…and of course, the ancient oak with its loving branches and its reassuring shade.

The gnarled roots of the tree reached up from the ground and provided not only a cradle for the child but also an imaginary world where she could cook acorn stews and dance with magical fairies. From its comforting embrace, she would watch the other children and wish for someone to come by and steal away her loneliness.

And sometimes, someone would. A fellow loner, or a girl in a perfect pink dress looking for a side-kick. They would flit in and out of her life and her solitary playground world, but none of them lasted as long as the oak.

The oak saw her through happiness, sadness, good days and bad. The oak was her friend, her confidant, her source of joy and comfort.

The oak still stands in that quiet spot beside the playground, still sheltering shy and lonely children, still bringing a sense of friendship to those who may not otherwise feel it.

The child who loved the oak eventually grew up, leaving behind the playground and the ghosts who haunted it.

But she still lives within my heart. She still struggles with her shy nature. She still befriends the confident, popular girls in need of a sidekick. She still climbs trees and loves animals. In many ways, she’s still that same child who played beneath the oak, longing for friendship and struggling with insecurity.

Sometimes, I still feel trapped on that playground, playing amongst the roots of that ancient oak. Maybe, to some extent, I’ll always feel that way. Maybe we all feel that pang of loneliness from time to time, as we fumble our way through life seeking connection, friendship, and the comforting arms of an old oak tree.

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