It started with a purple tree. I noticed it in the distance when a large bird swooped down from the sky. It went under the branches near the ground and up into the tree. It was so fast that I thought I imagined it. I skipped over to the tree which was a fair distance from the gathering. I wasn’t sure what to do but I felt light and bouncy.
I had to duck under that large branched then lift myself over another one to get to the truck. It was dark under its crown. Are the leaves really purple or was it an illusion? They looked more bluish-green than purple. I stared up the centre to see the bird but I had no luck. It was silent under that tree, so peaceful. The limps of the tree were syrupy and it had a sweet scent. If I could get away with it I would stay under there for a long time. A nap would be delightful.
I wanted to take a leaf but I didn’t want to steal it from the tree especially when there were leaves on the ground. I found one that seems to just be waiting for me to take it. The shape was still in tack and the colour was just as bold as the ones on the tree. As I started to make my way out, I heard, ‘Take one more.’ I realized it meant to take another leaf. I couldn’t find one that was the same. I picked up one that was slightly damaged but its beauty was nevertheless there.
As I ventured out from the tree I saw a woman from the group watching me. She was heading towards me. I had to run back to the gathering because the poetry reading was about to continue and I didn’t want to be rude. As I looked back I noticed the tree was truly far away from our meeting place.
The woman agreed me, “that’s a beautiful tree with the purple leaves. I wanted to go over there but it’s too far away from the event.” That’s when I realized I was slightly out of breath.
“It’s not really a purple tree. The leaves are more bluish-green than purple. I have two leaves, do you want one.” I gave her the flawless one. It felt like it belonged to her. The smile that graced her face was gentle and genuine. The host of the event called everyone to their seats and we parted.
It was her turn to read, Geneva M. Neale (Audian) and she shown us how to use your smile. She stretched, twisted and curled her beautiful smile. She whistled, hummed and sang and maintained her grin and joy just radiating from her. I had to talk to her again, but I had to wait until the other writers and poets finished.
It felt like a long time to wait until I needed to speak to her once more. I waited until other people greeted and complimented her on her work. I slid in beside her and thanked her. I didn’t think to use my smile the way she did.
The tone of our conversation changed suddenly. Her smile faded from her face. Her shoulders curled inward and she became extremely dishearten. She asked me if I heard of JackSoul, a Canadian soul and R&B group, as she pulled out a photo album from her bag. I’m terrible at remembering names but feelings and love, I pick those up. She asked if I knew the lead singer, Haydain Neale, and I searched my memory then it hit me. I saw them perform years ago at First Canadian Place when I was doing my co-op work with Nesbitt Burns. His music moved me and I enjoyed the way the he sang about love. Then I realized, he died last year. Why is she talking about him?
She opened the album and she said Haydain was my son. She flipped through the pictures of him as a child and where they lived. She smiled and pointed at some of the pictures. She recalled beautiful moments where he lit up her world with his humour and charm. She wanted him to fulfill his dream of singing and she completely supported him.
She told me that the two of them sat under a purple tree. It was similar to the one that was at our venue. She thanked me for the leaf and put it in her album. It was as if he was with us and wanted her to have the leaf so she could remember their glorious day under the purple tree.
She taught me that day, that every moment is every precious. I felt so honoured that this woman, a mother shared stories of her son and their love for each other. To think I just wanted to watch a bird in a purple tree which lead me to meeting Ms. Geneva with a story about smiles, love and family.