Think back to the last time you saw somebody’s child for the first time in years. In your memory, she is still a baby. Now, when you meet her, she is in elementary school, and speaks in remarkably complete sentences. You say something about how she is all grown up and no longer a baby, and maybe you are feeling a little guilty for staying away for so long. She feels awkward, because most kids don’t know what to do when somebody they don’t remember brings up their infant years.
I found myself having a moment like that, except with a couple of trees instead of children. I knew these trees well when they were new plantings. Earlier this summer, I visited St. Paul. It is where I lived before spending the last 20 years in Midlothian. I regret to say: I have not gotten back to St. Paul as often as I thought I would when we left.
One of the first things I did when I got into St. Paul was take a walk around the old neighborhood. I have only been there twice since we left 20 years ago. As I walked down the street I used to live on, I saw the maple and basswood in the front yard of my old house – I stopped and stared. I could have made some comment about remembering when I brought them home in pots in the back of my pickup. These are trees that I planted when we lived there. I did not spend a lot of years with these trees, but I remember planting them. I remember looking at them every day when I stepped out the front door.
I planted both trees, but I feel a special connection with the maple tree. I planted it the spring my daughter was born. It is now a beautiful shade tree that is evidently loved by the current occupants.
We left St. Paul and our young trees when my daughter was almost 4 years old. My mind reeled with what the tree has become in 20 years.
The maple is a hybrid silver maple/red maple, an “Autumn Blaze” if I recall. It wasn’t necessarily the best tree for the location, but it wasn’t the worst. Also, my boss gave it to me, and I am grateful for that. Money can be tight when you have a new infant in the house.
I actually thought that if this tree gets too big for this space, I would just cut it down and plant another tree. As a young arborist, I may have known the tangible benefits of trees; shade, habitat, and improved property value. I, however, grossly underestimated the emotional attachment humans can have for trees. I am glad there is still space for the maple to grow in front of the house. I am grateful for the people who live there, for showing the tree so much love.
If there are some trees that you remember from your distant past that you have not seen in a while, pay them a visit. Sit in their shade for a bit and see if they bring back memories.