In the Arms of the Maple by Dawn DeBraal

Vera climbed into her favorite spot behind the house, the branches of the large maple tree, a place of solace. Birds sang, the wind blew through the fields of grass surrounding their property, she breathed in the smell of blooming wild plum trees and lilacs, while her heartbeat returned to normal. Her father wanted to sell the house, he couldn’t keep up with a four-bedroom monstrosity on his own, at least not since her mother died a few years ago. Vera said she would step it up, but her dad said it was better this way, moving to town, Vera could walk to school and see her friends every day.

She understood that her dad merely existed without her mother. Vera realized she was lucky to be in the same school with the same friends, but this tree was a place where she felt safe and loved. A place to talk to her mother about troubles, as if the arms of the maple tree cradled her. She would miss this tree, most of all.

 Every room in this house reminded them of the loss they suffered. They had stayed here for as long as their hearts could bear. Now it was time. She wished she was old enough to buy the house herself. That was foolishness talking because next year, she would be going to college. Her father would be left with nothing but memories. 

Vera thought of the houses in town that she admired. There were some beautiful places with large porches on Main Street that she loved, maybe something different wasn’t going to be so bad. She had faith in her father, who said she would be able to pick the house she wanted. 

The car horn beeped. Her dad was waiting. They had some house viewings in town with the realtor. She ran through the woods, climbing into the front seat. Her dad looked at her with watery eyes and a sympathetic smile. He felt it too, the loss of moving on, letting go. 

“Are you ok?” he put his hand on her shoulder, which made Vera want to cry. She nodded, “yes.” 

“We are looking at three houses today. If you don’t approve, we will keep looking.” Vera bit her lip. She wanted to say to him the only house she wanted to be in was the one she had known all her life, but that was being selfish. 

Her father pulled into the driveway of the first house. A cute cape cod. Everything on one story. They walked through the house, seeing little in endearing character. Her father asked if they should keep looking. Vera nodded her head. This house was not their house. The next place, Vera refused to get out of the car. She stared at the ranch home with no character on a bare lot. 

“Dad, this house is terrible. I don’t even want to look.” Her father got out of the car and talked to the realtor, letting her know they weren’t interested. They followed her to the last showing of the day. Vera’s eyes teared up as they pulled into the driveway. It was a small Victorian home. A “painted lady” they called them. The oak entryway boasted window seats, stained-glass, the hardwoods polished to a shine, smelled of wax and lemons. They toured the house in quiet awe—one bedroom on the bottom floor for her father and two bedrooms upstairs. Vera found a doorway that led to the attic. She was able to stand up in the center, admiring the roof trusses and the intricate work that held up the turret on the front of the house. Vera was in love. She longingly roamed about the house touching glass doorknobs, nodding approvingly at the marble floors in each of the bathrooms. It was a lovely home. She was startled when she thought “home,” not “house.” 

Momentarily forgetting the sacrifice they were making, Vera was drawn to the outdoors exploring the back yard. The screened porch looked out on a well-established lawn. The sound of the stretching spring bolted to the door, as it opened and gently closed behind her.

At the back of the property a large maple tree almost as big as the one at home. Vera walked out to the tree seeing a tire swing that she climbed into, slowly rocking herself back and forth. She enjoyed the feel of this house and, the look. Vera had to admit to herself that this wouldn’t be a bad house for them.  Her father would be in town and have neighbors after she left for college. He wouldn’t have to look at what they’d lost but forward to new memories in the making. She and her father could move on. 

Vera stopped fighting her dad’s decision. She started to embrace change. Her mom wouldn’t want them to stagnate. She would want them to keep moving. The wind swayed the maple’s branches above her. She breathed in the smells of summer, heard the sound of buzzing bees and, chirping birds. If she closed her eyes, Vera could imagine herself back at the farmhouse, secure in the branches of the old maple. She realized her safe place had always been inside of her. No matter where Vera was, her mother would always be with her. This new house was going to work, she decided. 

Walking back to where her father stood with the realtor, Vera searched his face. She could tell by his raised eyebrows he was saying, “Well?” Vera nodded, “yes,” putting her thumbs up in approval. Her father hugged her, telling the realtor, this was the house. 

Vera smiled, excited to start the next chapter in their lives.

Dawn DeBraal lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband Red, a slightly overweight rat terrier and a cat. She discovered her love of telling a good story can be written. You will find many of her stories in published anthologies and online magazines. 

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