A few of Andrew’s friends came by for a visit on New Year’s Day.
I was glad to see them, and touched that they had thought of us.
Yet I felt awkward sitting in the living room with them. In the past, whenever they had come to the house, they would come in and barely say hello before disappearing into Andrew’s room, or play outside for a while.
Now they were sitting in the living room with Hugh and me and a friend of ours.
Of Andrew, there were only memories, and pictures.
I looked at the three boys sitting across from us, trying to make conversation. They looked a bit lost and I realized that they were grieving the loss of their loyal friend.
We tried to make conversation, but after a while, listening to their plans for the summer, for their future, I became agitated and distressed.
But then Michael, one of Andrew’s oldest friends sat up and said:
“Anyway, we were thinking that we would like to have a memorial for Andrew and we have spoken about it to the High School Principal. If you agree, we would like to plant a tree with a plaque and his name on it.”
A tree! What a lovely idea!
In a flash I found myself looking at the tree in the garden of the house that we rented, when we moved to the States. On a warm day, Andrew would often sit on one of the branches, peacefully reading or attempting to climb higher. He had a particular friend at the time with whom he used to climb up that tree. Then his friend moved to another town and we, moved to another house.
Still, Andrew loved climbing trees. One summer, after we’d all bicycled to the elementary school grounds and were sitting on a bench for a little rest, Andrew decided that he wanted to climb the tree next to our bench.
“Don’t go too high,” I warned him. He laughed. And Hugh told us, again, about that time when he was fourteen, when he had climbed to the top of the huge cedar tree at Stowe, his boarding school.
While we were talking Andrew had climbed higher and higher, and when I looked up and saw how high he’d climbed; I took a deep breath to stop myself from screaming.
“We need to call the fire brigade,” I told my husband. “How else is he going to get down safely from there?”
“Don’t be silly,” said my husband, and calmly guided him down while I in turn looked away, and then looked up and kept a firm hold on Robert who was rearing to get up himself. Florentina was only slightly less worried than I was.
When he reached a branch low enough, he jumped to the ground lightly. His face was flushed from the heat, the exertion, but most of all, from the excitement.
His joyous smile spread from his face to his eyes and yes, to his ears.
Yes, I thought, coming back to the room. It would be lovely to plant a tree in Andrew’s memory. Eric asked what kind of tree we might like.
Without a doubt we knew what tree Andrew would have chosen. A Cedar of Lebanon, like the one that had been standing tall and proud, in the courtyard of Kirkley Hall, once the Williamson-Noble family home in Northumberland.
What do you think of that Andrew?
Love you, Mummy