Posts Tagged ‘maple tree’

With Father’s Day approaching, I decided to post a “reprint” of a story I wrote that appeared a few years ago on the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature website.  



In elementary school, my younger brother and I participated in an activity where we were given seeds to plant in cups. Over time the seeds sprouted and tiny house plants grew. At home, when my brother discovered that the neighbor’s maple tree helicopters littering our yard were in fact winged seeds, he decided to replicate the school activity.  He planted one seed in a handful of soil in one of the small white Styrofoam cups that our dad liked to use for coffee.

My parents were supportive of his effort, though not at all positive that he was doing anything except making a cup full of mud.  But, green shoots soon sprouted up through the soil. When the sapling outgrew the Styrofoam cup, he planted it in one of Mom’s large clay pots.

My brother was only about seven years old with the attention span of gnat. We all expected him to forget about the tree, to let it wither and die once the joys of watering it faded away. But he didn’t lose interest. He watered it. He moved it around the yard to catch the traveling rays of the sun.  He dragged it under the house during rain storms.  When a branch was accidentally broken, he applied a field dressing of black electrical tape which saved the budding limb.

Dad was fine with the tree until my brother wanted to transplant it from the pot to a fertile area near the vegetable garden. He tried to explain to us that the roots of maple trees spread ferociously. We heard the words but we didn’t really understand. My brother wanted to replant his tree, and I supported him. Mom sided with  us.  “Let him plant the thing. See what happens.”

Over the years we watched the garden shrink as the tree grew magnificently, with a trunk so wide I couldn’t wrap my arms around it, and a canopy so broad that it shaded half the back yard.

One day I saw my father looking up at the tree, lips pursed.  Then he looked at my brother’s head thrown back, face beaming as he looked up at his tree. My father tipped his cap at the tree and sighed.

“Come on,” he said to my brother. “Get inside and wash your hands.”

As my brother dashed by him, my father patted him on the head.

Nearly thirty years later, the tree is gone and so are my parents. My brother is grown and not especially inclined toward gardening.

But recently he did call me. He’d gone to the store to buy gifts for his girlfriend’s two young daughters.

“What did you buy?” I asked.

“Little gardening gloves,” he said.

And I could hear the smile in his voice.

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