“It’s a Red Maple. They said it would grow fast.” Rick lifted the three inch diameter potted tree from the pick-up bed. “I know it doesn’t make up for the ones you lost, but it’s a start.”
Three months earlier, over a dozen stately maple trees adorned his parents’ farm. The trunks alone were wider than our daughter and her cousin could encircle with both arms extended. Two particularly large ones graced the front lawn of the neatly trimmed farm house.
“It was the Civil War.” My mother-in-law retold the story. “The man who had this farm had to leave everything to go fight for the North. He knew he might not make it back.”
“What happened then, grandma?” Although she already knew the ending, my daughter asked the same question over and over.
“Well, he had a lovely bride with a baby on the way. He wanted something for them to remember him by just in case he didn’t return.” She moved the afghan she was crocheting to the cushion next to her. “He went up back to the woods and selected the healthiest saplings he could find. Two of them.” She gestured with her hands to make her point. “He planted those trees in the front lawn so that they would always remember him. The trees are over a hundred years old.” She smiled with fondness as she wove her tale.
“He came back, didn’t he, grandma?” Shelly loved the story and urged her grandmother to recount the ending.
“Yes, he did come back. God provided a way. In fact, he was your great, great grandfather. We love these old trees.” She turned her head to gaze out the picture glass window.
We stood in the front lawn now barren from the tornado’s wrath. Huge stumps peppered the span from the house to the barn where more trees once shaded the yard.
My father-in-law reached for his shovel and made the first plunge into the stone filled soil.
“Let me take a turn at it too, dad.” My husband reached for the handle and dug deep into the earth. Soon a pile of dirt lay next to the hole deep enough for planting. Both father and son reached for the tall young plant. With a nod, they lifted the tree and set it firmly in place for the next generation.
“Do you think this tree will get as big as the other ones, grandpa?” My daughter asked while shielding her eyes from the sun now filtering through the branches.
My father-in-law shielded his own eyes as he leaned against the shovel handle. “It will, Shelly, in someone’s time. Someday, God willing, it will tower over this home just like the other ones did for so many years. There will be plenty of leaves for your grandpa to rake again and plenty for your children to play in. Now, generation after generation can pass down a new story of how a tornado passed through here sparing everyone but the trees.”
Years later, we packed our tiny family and moved south. Every fall, as steadfast as the changing seasons, my mother-in-law sends us a picture of her husband standing beneath the wide branches of the maple tree gracefully growing old with its family on North Flat.
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