One day, you’ll realize that you’re not born with an allotted amount of happiness, that you can keep stretching it, keep growing it, keep pushing the limits of conceivable joy until you understand.

When you realize that the price of happiness is patience, you’ll plant a tree to watch it grow. You’ll count the rings, the branches; one year, you’ll even try to count the leaves. You’ll see limbs overtaken by tiny insects. You’ll see the tree expel a branch to save the trunk. You’ll climb up, sit beneath, walk around the seasons and at some point, after 30 years, you’ll realize deep in your bones the appeal of cyclical timelines. You’ll love every season, even the barren Winter because you could use a rest and the tree grants you permission.

You’ll dance when you learn the roots are growing into your foundation. You’ll cry when the doors start sticking. You’ll stand dumbstruck when a lightening storm breaks a branch over the roof of your car. Even more dumbstruck when your kid drives into the tree — a learner’s mistake—leaving behind a barely perceptible tilt that it never cared to correct. But still, you trust it to support your grandchildren through stories so wild your ageing mind struggles to jump from myth to myth. You trust it remain patient enough not to collapse into your house until you’re done using it.

And at last you’ve learned the secret to happiness, you’ve earned the right to claim it. So when your daughter decides to throw her failed attempts away, you drive her to the arboretum and you tell her that lasting happiness is never stumbled upon, it’s been built out of all the days you waited, out of all the days you sat in the driveway and decided to return. And when she rolls her eyes and curls against the door, you get out, buy an oak tree and tie it to the roof. One day, she’ll understand.

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