I can be a patient man.
It is a cultivated trait, and, I confess, there are days where I fail at being that patient man.
There is a tree near Cross Cemetery, which defines my patience, gives it form and function. The tree is beautiful and tall, a majestic creation that stands watch over the dead.
Today is April 12th, 1899, and this day marks the anniversary of this tree’s birth.
I planted it in 1800, and I have cared for it ever since. It took the tree a decade to grow large enough to sustain the burl, and then another two years for me to tease out the rough shape. Three more years of careful observation followed, and when I was certain the tree would be able to perform its task, I set about my business.
There was a fine woman by the name of Goody Hawthorn, who lived between Cross and Pepperell. She and her husband, Patient, were God-fearing folk who attended service on Sunday and would tolerate no foolishness. I was friends with their son, Noble, whom I had met while walking to Boston one day. Noble was as fine a friend as one could want, and it was easy for me to play and laugh with this fourteen-year-old.
On a Sunday afternoon, I stopped by to say hello, and I learned that Noble was no longer with the family. He was, in fact, dead. His mother had set about punishing him for some transgression, and she had struck him upon the head, killing him instantly.
That was in 1800.
By 1815, Goody and Patient were still alive, still farming, and unrepentant about the death of my friend.
On the anniversary of Noble’s death, I buried his father alive in my front yard. I took his mother to the tree I had prepared and stuffed her into the burl. I stitched her mouth closed, and each day I worked on the burl, closing it slowly as she moaned and begged through her stitches.
It took another two years to close the burl over her body.
I stop by the tree often, reflect upon the demise of my friend, and wish his parents had suffered longer.
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