“NO! My weeping willow!”
The Upper Division had just been sent into quarantine. Tuesday’s classes were canceled so faculty could prepare for remote learning later that week, and I had planned on using the day to begin repairing my botched sleep schedule. Then, the ice storm hit, and all hell broke loose in the Chandrasekaran household. My sleep would have to wait, as I had woken up at 6 am to my mother’s scream upon the discovery that her favorite tree had been destroyed in the ice storm.
I spent the morning comforting Gemma. She sorrowfully recounted the day she strapped the willow into the back seat of her car and took it home. “Oh, it was just two or three feet when I first bought it six years ago… a little baby. Now, it is–” she cringed as she corrected herself–“was twenty feet in the air.” As she reminisced about happier times, she was occasionally interrupted by the sound of a muffled rustle and crunch, indicating that yet another tree had fallen.
Initially, I felt a bit confused as to why my own mother felt so affected by the loss of her favorite tree. When I asked Gemma what all the fuss was about, she raised her hands in the air and scrunched her eyebrows, baffled that I didn’t share her sense of loss: “Because I love trees! Every time I pass our windows, my eyes follow the maple and the willow outside the house. They’re just so beautiful.”
Later that evening, I had to relocate down the street to the Bhaktarams’ house, as my power had gone out. I learned that their mother, Saviya, was also in the process of mourning her tree losses. Gemma and Saviya exchanged grievances, pointing through the windows as they looked on all the destruction. “You kids just don’t understand,” they shook their heads. “Those trees bring us so much happiness.” When they woke up and all the trees had suddenly fallen, they were shocked. “2020 could not get any worse.”
Although my level of appreciation for our trees doesn’t quite match that of Gemma or Saviya, I began to better understand their disappointment the following day. I left our neighborhood for the first time since the storm had hit, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. So many trees had fallen, I was unable to leave the neighborhood. Halfway through each route I attempted, a tree was strewn across the icy road, blocking my exit. Each yard was bald, exposing the houses that had previously been tucked behind dense greenery. It was an undeniably depressing sight.
In retrospect, it’s astonishing how much went awry in the span of that single October week. A Covid outbreak in the high school, a week-long power outage, thousands of ruined trees. In true 2020 fashion, everything that could have gone wrong did. While it’s easy to wallow in these setbacks, and I’m knocking on wood as I type this, things just might be starting to look up. Everyone’s power has returned, finals have been canceled, and Thanksgiving break is just on the horizon. Maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll be able to leave our bad fortune in this godforsaken year.