Elizabeth had been away awhile. Years. Enough years for she and her husband to have a baby girl, Victoria, and Victoria to get a little sister, Isabella, and Isabella to start walking and talking--just a little.
Her grandmother, every time she held Isabella, got tears in her eyes and told her that she looked just like her mother when she was that age. Isabella didn’t disagree neither did she understand.
Elizabeth, in the way of women, was becoming more like her mother each day. She missed her mother and wanted to be around her and was constantly on the lookout for a job near home.
Then came the day they surprised each other.
Elizabeth called her mother.
“Momma,” she said. “I’ve got some news.”
Then she shared that both she and her husband had gotten jobs in their home town.
“We can see you all the time,” she said. “Now we just need to find a house.”
There was a silence on the other end of the line that she wasn’t expecting. It only last a second or maybe two, but it was enough to make her worry.
“Well,” her mother finally said, “you can have my house.”
Elizabeth’s mother had never dated before Elizabeth left home. Somehow the manner of Elizabeth’s father’s death right before Elizabeth’s birth had frozen out any other relationship. When Elizabeth married and left herself, it was judged to be time. Elizabeth’s mother joined groups. She’d met people. She’d met a man, and she’d introduced him once to Elizabeth.
She’d worried that as he was a bit older than her whether it would go anywhere.
“But today, he asked me to marry him,” she said. “I said yes. He lives in a very nice house out in the country that he’s had all to himself since his wife died. You all can just have this one.”
And so it came to pass that one winter day Elizabeth--and her family--returned.
The movers had moved everything in. They got unpacked. Elizabeth and her husband got into the flow of their jobs, and Victoria and Isabella got into the flow of preschool and daycare.
Winter passed slowly but then spring came, and Elizabeth did something she had dreamed about for years. She took her daughters out into the backyard to do yard work.
It was one of those days of spring that was sunny but there was a reminder of winter in every breeze. The leaves of the some of the more daring trees had burst out, but not of the oak. The oak was waiting until it was surer that spring wouldn’t retreat again.
Victoria ran quickly to the swing set that had been waiting all winter for her, while Elizabeth and Bella, as Isabella was called, walked along behind.
Elizabeth looked at Isabella toddling toddling ahead of her and had to admit that she did look like her own baby pictures. There were pictures of Elizabeth standing in this yard, near this very spot, with the only difference being the tree.
She smile to herself.
“Bella,” she said. “Do you know what your grandmother and I called this tree when I was your age?”
She hadn’t expected an answer because Bella didn’t act like she was listening. Instead she seemed looking at something in the tree. So what Elizabeth heard next surprised her in more ways than one.
“The Daddy tree!” Isabella said with a giggle, still looking up.
Elizabeth was surprised because she didn’t remember having told her about the Daddy tree.
But then in the way of mothers who are teaching their children how to speak, she grabbed Elizabeth up in her arms and tickled Bella’s tummy.
“Who told you that? Who told you that?” she asked. “Did grandma tell you that?”
“No,” Isabella answered through giggles. “He did!”
She was pointing up the tree.
Elizabeth followed her finger to a point twelve feet up the Daddy tree and saw a squirrel. And the squirrel did appear to be talking.
And, as you know, the squirrel was talking. He talked a lot. Indeed, he preached a lot. Among his many name segments, most of which referred to his loquaciousness in some way, the most prominent was the Prophet. This is how we shall call him.
The Prophet had been preaching for years. He could tell the whole story from the planting of the Daddy tree; the day the Emissary saved the tree; the Death of Postumus; the elimination of the Creep. He’d known Ninja Squirrel himself only briefly but long enough to learn not only the story of the Emissary’s parting but of her promise to return.
As time moves so differently for squirrels and little girls, the fact there had been a change of occupants in the house had almost been missed. It’s like barges or continents moving past each other. One has to really pay attention and even then sometime details can be missed.
When Elizabeth stepped out, the Prophet thought that she was her mother, or, rather, the Mother. Then he’d seen the two little ones come out and was confused. Who were they? Ninja who had seen the Emissary who had, indeed, guarded the Emissary, has said she was as tall as the Mother. By way of contrast, the early stories had suggested that the Emissary was much smaller than the Mother. The story was that the Emissary had grown into an adult, and it is not the way that adults grow smaller again. And to become twain? No.
But he had to be sure, so be did what he did best. He talked. He preached.
“And in those days, Postumus visited this tree, the tree of his father...”
As he continued, it looked as if the smaller of the two were listening. He was sure of this when he heard her translate for her mother.
“The Daddy tree,” she had said.
He had seen the Mother look at her and follow her finger, and he was now looking into the Mother’s own eyes as she looked at him. Being a squirrel and being very good at body language, he could tell there was a very great deal going on behind her eyes.
And indeed there was. She was remembering Ninja Squirrel, the day she had been attacked, the furry images she had seen, and the sound she had heard. She remembered all the times squirrels had left her little gifts. She remembered the day Grampa Squirrel had died. There was even a faint, half-remembered dream of a time when a squirrel had told her about the Daddy tree.
She turned to look at Bella and believed her.
And when she believed, she could understand what the Prophet was saying.
And the three of them--and the Mother and the Male and the Rich Man--they had many adventures the writing of which would take many lifetimes.
But the Prophet told these stories to his disciple, who told them to his disciple, who told them to his, and that disciple was me.