The Figurin’ Out Tree
                            by Edward F Petersen


     Sadie Solomon swore that she could never smile again. And she would not come down out of her figurin’ out tree.

     When she found out on a sunny April Fool’s Day afternoon that her grandfather had passed away, Sadie scribbled DO NOT DISTURB on a scrap of cardboard and tacked it to the trunk of the biggest cherry tree in Deer Hill Park. Then the girl climbed as high as she could up into its branches as she often did when she needed to figure something out.
 
     “I’m not comin’ down from my figurin’ out tree until I figure out a way to bring Papa back into this world again,” Sadie said to herself. “I have my pack with some peanut butter sandwiches and two bottles of water, so I can stay up here for a long time, maybe forever, if that’s how long it takes.”

     Sadie’s figurin’ out tree was usually in full bloom by this time of year. A girl sitting in its branches might feel like an angel hiding inside a cloud of beautiful white blossoms, but not this year. This year the big cherry was as bare as deer antlers. It was as if the tree knew bad news was coming and refused to bloom. So Sadie could easily be seen up there by everyone. And as afternoon turned toward evening, people started to pay attention. Her eyes were closed, and she sat cross-legged in the fork of two large branches thinking very, very deeply. Now, a girl up in a tree isn’t really that unusual of a sight, but a girl sitting up there perfectly still, hour after hour, can’t help but tickle one's curiosity. The figurin’ out tree was collecting quite a crowd.

     “That the Solomon girl up there?” Mr. Hoover asked.

     “Yup, it’s Sadie!” Mrs. Martinez answered. “The news about her grandfather hit her like a bolt out of the blue.”

     “Yeah,” Mr. O’Neal said. “But old Sam Solomon had a good long run, didn’t he? Just come to the end of his tracks.”

     “Ahem,” Ms. Brooks said, “of course, time does overtake us all Mr. O’Neal . . . but what do we suppose that child is doing?”

     “I believe she ‘sleep up there,” Mrs. Wong said.

     “I don’t think she’s sleeping,” Mr. Hoover said.

     “Nah, she’s up there close as she can get to heaven just a ponderin’ things,” Mr. O’Neal said.

      As the last stripes of sunlight slowly sank behind Deer Hill, a smile of moon began gleaming above the head of Sadie Solomon.  Would she ever feel like that moon again? She remembered the jokes that she shared with her grandfather on their walks through Deer Hill Park.  And she thought how unfair that Papa had died on April Fool’s Day, a day which the pair of jokesters especially treasured.

     Sitting deep in her perch, Sadie said to herself,” I know if I can only think long and hard enough about Papa, I can find a way to bring him back into the world . . . then I can smile again.”

     She tried to let her thoughts sink down, even farther into her heart.

     It wasn’t long before Sadie’s parents joined the crowd around her figurin’ out tree.

     “Please come down now, Sadie!” her mother pleaded. “Please come down and let’s go home. It’s getting quite late!”

     But the girl wouldn’t budge. Without even opening her eyes, Sadie took a bite of peanut butter sandwich and a sip from her water bottle.

     “Let her be for a while.” Her father said. “I’ll stay here on this bench to make sure she’s safe until she’s ready to come down.”

     Everyone else went home to bed. The night grew darker and even Sadie’s father fell fast asleep on his bench. The stars bloomed like a cloud of sparkling flowers in the sky. Maybe Sadie fell asleep too, or perhaps there is a place deep inside the heart where there is no difference between thoughts and dreams. Because all at once, she saw that the stars were just twinkles in the kindly eyes of an old man.  It was Papa!

     “Hello Sadie,” Papa said. “What are you doing up in this tree?”

     “Oh, Papa!” Sadie said, “Oh, Papa, Papa, Papa! This is my figurin’ out tree. I’m up here wondering why you had to die, and I’m trying to figure out a way to bring you back into this world so that I can smile again.

 “Ah, I see. Why someone has to die is more than anybody can figure out, Sadie, even in a figurin’ out tree,” Papa said. “And I can never come back into this world. But you can visit me at very bottom of your heart any time you want. I’ll always be there and we can smile together just like always 
.  .  . No April Fools!”

     As the first beam of sunlight sparkled off the dew soaked grass, everyone woke up to find that the biggest cherry tree in Deer Hill Park had blossomed overnight. It was covered with a spectacular cloud of beautiful white flowers. And they saw that the flowers were falling from its branches like rain upon Sadie Solomon who was finally standing on the ground beneath her figurin’ out tree. And she sported a peanut butter mustache decorating a big, broad smile.


 Copyright © 2014 Edward F. Petersen – All Rights Reserved