You told me a story once.

It reminded me of my own days in elementary school, when I would use clumpy paste to smear a flamebright Star of David atop a spindly-scrapped Christmas tree. "I'm a PresbyJew!" I would proclaim proudly. That won me more than a few looks of six-year-old derision.

Your tree was diffent. Harmless kindergarten projects can be life-scarring, if you didn't know that already. Family trees can shove more than a few splinters into an already bleeding heart. All of the other boys and girls, with their perfect slice and bake families had trees with two branches. Two nice, symmetrical extensions of wood and sap and life.

You had three.

At one point or another your tree was shattered by the lightning bolt of unlove. Or love, perhaps, touched by something tainted. I'm not really sure. You don't talk about it much.

All you wanted was a happy home. Happy apartment. Something to hold onto in case the winds of despair blew you off course.

I'm sorry, but I'm not.

Because now you are so strong, stronger than I could ever hope to become. A tree with three branches provides more shelter than a tree with two. And when your arms wrap around me, keeping the monsters and the demons away, all I feel is warmth.

A fire sparked by lightning., channeled into a caressing warmth that takes away all of the bad, all of the darkness. Light, heat, and comfort.

Everything we needed to know we learned in kindergarten.

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