Water Oak: The Happiness of Longing
From my newest book Water Oak for my dad on Father’s Day: There was an old tire swing that Grandpa had hung from a branch of our water oak at the top of the yard. He’d hung it there with thick rough rope, the kind he used to tie a skiff to its anchor, or toss over a piling to secure his ferryboat to the Algiers dock.
I’d learned to hold on tight, wrap my arms firmly around the rope, even though it was scratchy and weathered, gnarly as the tree trunk; I’d sit on top of that tire, hugging the coarse rope, and dad would push me higher and higher until I was truly flying, as high as the tallest branches in the oak tree, soaring effortlessly, breezily, above our yard and its white shell driveway and my cousin Russell waiting below on the bench eager for his turn.
I’d swing high above my dad laughing as he pushed me, laughing while I giggled; and high enough to see Aunt BeeDee sewing new curtains with little sailboats printed on them for the boys room and Uncle Warren settling in to watch a baseball game with Grandpa in his living room, and my brothers and Davis playing pick-up-sticks near the TV while Grandma cooked her magic gumbo in the kitchen; I would soar above all of it, flying free, knowing that this was the thing; this lovely moment was everything; that the way my daddy loved me was all I would ever need to get far above everything that mattered, above everything that wounded; just a push of love and I could fly.
I would give this to Sarah; she would be loved extraordinarily; the push I’d give her would be enough to send her soaring above anything that wounded, above anything not good enough. She would have Long Beach. I would give her that.