by: Rebecca Taylor

       Hanging a small purple ribbon on the oak tree outside the kitchen window freed me as it did everyday. It is a habit I learned to adopt so as not to project all the pain in my world onto my husband Roy and three children. I work ten hour days at an emergency dispatch center reassuring people, trying to keep them calm in a crisis. The things I hear are nerve wracking and often heart breaking. In order to protect my family from the pain I frequently feel, I hang a ribbon on my trouble tree every time I come home from work. My name is Amber Delaney, I’m thirty-three and the trouble tree has helped me let go of the pain and sadness in my life. It doesn’t mean I never feel stress, or get sad or even cry but it helps to let some go of the bad times in my life. Every few months I cut the ribbons off the tree to cleanse it too.

            Now that I leave my tension and pain outside when I return home from work, my husband greets me happily. I have been married for seven years; I’ve been a dispatcher for most of it. I love my work because I know I make a difference, I help save lives but the things I hear are hard to deal with. I used to walk into the house saying things like:

            “You wouldn’t believe how sad the world is,” or “the voice on the other end of the phone sent chills down my spine.”

I didn’t even greet him, I blurted out some remark about my day which wasn’t even positive. His days are long too, he looks after the house and our young children. Like the emergency professionals I work with, he’s an everyday hero. Now I walk into the house feeling free. Tying a ribbon around a tree branch gives me hope and continuity. I can’t pretend that my life is easy or painless, but whose is? I go to work and come home to purge myself with my trouble tree in order to keep my family’s lives free of the daily pain I experience. I never believed that a tree could do so much for a person but this one does. It carries reminders of my past, the pain of my present and the expectations for my future. While I have a trouble tree to talk to and tie ribbons around I will be able to turn the knob on my front door and go inside ready to face another moment in time.

            Amber went inside with one last look at her trouble tree laden with its multicolour ribbons; one for everyday she had gone to work and come home since she had last snipped the tattered ribbons from the old oak. Life goes on no matter how hard it may be, coping is the objective, the trouble tree is proof of that.