Tuesday, July 6, 2010
This is Jack's Tree. Jack is the son of our good friends from Maine. We spend a weekend each summer with them at their lake house. And they come down to visit us here and there when there is a gathering going on. On one such trip down, for a football playoff party we were having, they came bearing a gift. Because they had spent Christmas in 2007 visiting family in Chicago, they did not get a Christmas tree for their home. Not wanting to disappoint young Jack, they bought a small potted tree for him to decorate leading up to their holiday trip. And because they did not have a nice spot to plant it in their own yard, they brought it down to us.
Jack's Tree did not come with any instructions per se, so we just left it sitting very festively by our front porch dotted with snow through the winter. No one told us that it should have been moved inside and cared for there. The soil in the pot froze, just like the ground we planned to eventually plant it in. This was not proper treatment for a little pine and the poor thing was in trouble when the Spring thaw finally came around a few months later.
A little research told us that Jack's Tree was an Australian Pine, which is nearly impossible to kill and very hearty in our region. Provided it did not die from our neglect before it had half a chance, it would grow to be quite large and attractive. We picked out a spot near the back of our yard where it would have room to grow and recover and crossed our fingers.
Jack's Tree spent the next few months turning brown. We felt almost foolish watering it - it looked so far gone. But we are stubborn Bumbles and so we kept apologizing to Jack's Tree and giving it water while brushing dead needles away. We got up the courage to ask the landscaper we hired to build our patio whether he thought Jack's Tree had any shot. He pointed out new growth and said that it would probably pull through despite our mistreatment.
A year after our gift of Jack's Tree arrived, it had finally turned green again. But it was so thin that it looked just like Charlie Brown's Tree instead of something young Jack could be proud of. We hoped it had put down its roots well enough to make it through another winter and that this one would treat it more kindly.
Jack's Tree survived its second winter and didn't shed nearly as many needles as it had before. In fact, it actually started to fatten up. We would check on it each time we'd come back to tend the vegetable garden that kept the little guy company. And we stopped worrying about it heading in to this past winter - its third at our home.
This Spring, when I lamented over our barren and pitiful gardens, the one bright spot in our yard was Jack's Tree. He has grown bigger, greener and more lush. He is coming into his own in his spot in the world. Some day we will look back at photos of our yard and marvel at how small he was. Just like we do when we revisit older photos from our summer trips up to Maine. Where young Jack was so small and we marvel at how much he has grown.
Getting toys and clothes and books and baubles as presents is always exciting. But they don't carry as much meaning as a tree from a young boy to plant and grow, that will be here to please the eyes of someone else long after we are gone from this Earth. So thank you Jack. We think of you each time we visit your tree. And we are really happy your tree is as stubborn as we are. Because I'm not sure we could have fessed up to killing your gift.