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The willow swayed softly in the breeze.

The ducklings followed their mother, as any good duckling should.

The willow grew depressed because she had no children of her own.

Her good friend the hummingbird came flitting by when he heard the willow weeping into the stream.

“Beautiful willow, you have a wonderful home and a wonderful life. Why do you cry?”

“I have no lover. I have no children. And all around me are families growing and sharing and I want that too!”

“But Willow, dear, you have it so good! Yes, you do not have children of your own and you do not have a lover. But you get to see generations of families grow old and then start new families. You never have to worry about outliving your children. Or having your heart broken. And it is an outright lie if you really think you don’t have any family!”

“What do you mean?”

“Am I not your family? Aren’t all the animals who take shelter underneath you a part of your family? They all talk to you and share with you like they would to their mothers. The humans too! Don’t deny that a human or two has sat in your shade and told you more secrets then anyone in their life.”

“But I don’t understand…”

“You don’t have to be of the same blood or even species for them to be your family. As long as you care for them when they need you and you feel they love you as well.”

“I guess I never thought of it that way.”

“Just enjoy your life, Willow. I must be off, I smell a flower that is calling my name.”

“Thank you hummingbird, you put it in perspective.”

Hummingbird flew off to the sweet nectar that waited for him. Leaving Willow alone, but only for a short while because just then a maiden came walking over the hill with a bouquet of lilacs in her hand.

The maiden was a lovely creature with skin the color of cream. Her hair was the color of rich mahogany that was twisted up underneath a lace bonnet, yet a few curls always escaped; almost as if they couldn’t stand to be restricted. The maiden visited the willow often. The first time she had, she had been crying and it was obvious she was running away from something. The willow had moved her limbs back and forth in a calming motion until the maiden fell asleep after confessing everything on her mind. Then the willow had gently roused her before it was dark. After that, the maiden came to see the willow at least once a week, but usually more.

The maiden curled up on her favorite nook on the willows trunk and started to recount her week, as she did every week. When she got to the end, she set the lilacs on the willow and rubbed the willows trunk. “I love you Willow, you always make me feel so much better as if all you want to do is make me feel better. I hope you like lilacs, I thought they’d look lovely on you. I’m sorry I can’t stay longer, but I have many chores to do. But I’ll be back.”

The maiden ran back up the hill, and the willow scooped up one of the lilacs in one of her long tendrils.”I’ll always be here,” said the willow and she knew in that moment that she did indeed have family.

The maiden returned the next morning, and still grasped in the long tendril was the lilac.