He thinks he’s lost me in the store.
Mad because he can’t find his matchbox car; (the one I told him not to bring because history has a way of repeating itself with five-year-olds),
he hides behind the rack of Hallmark Cards and then wanders farther. He doesn’t know I am watching him.
But I am.
And when he comes back to me, his head is down and the disappearing fullness of his cheeks peek out from above his neck.
He lost his baby fat somewhere between the parked car and the aisle of perennials.
I reach for his hand and guide him toward the Evergreens; the little ones that can be pruned and shaped when planted in a container.
His fingers pull away from mine to touch their prickly texture and we pick two; their green is vibrant and otherworldly when we load them into the truck.
Everyone likes our trees he says, and he must be right:
the shoppers who push their empty carts back through the parking lot smile at his proud, dirt-smudged face as his nose brushes the scent of sapling promise.
When we are home, we go about the business of moving the eager trees into their bereft planters, and the little big boy at my side starts to talk.
Don’t be scared, he pets their temporarily faded branches;
Hurry mom, he insists, touching the first tree like a favored cat.
You’ll like your new home, he whispers into their upward stems while dirt is poured.
Then the second tree into the empty planter: both are dually satisfied and his talk more confident this time.
It’s okay tree, his singsong words are a poem caroled across the yard when he runs to retrieve the watering can and then the open mouth of the long hose.
When the two meet, a feathery spray of water dampens my clothes and we laugh.
I’ve grabbed the pruning shears by now,
and I even out just few branches on each tree before we set them in the sun
so the little gardener can pour the arching stream of water into their roots.