Four years ago, *A* and I were finishing our master’s degrees, living in a little townhouse with a tiny front porch (stoop, really). I was away for much of the week each week during that spring semester, working as a museum technician at Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. I came home on Fridays, but it was rough living a part, even for four-ish months (we’d done the same thing when I’d been an intern there the summer before). We grabbed every minute we could on the weekends to do stuff together.
We had started some dahlia bulbs in the ground one weekend in March, and we set the pot out in the sunshine during the day, when it was warm enough, on that little front porch.
It was about this time that *A* and I had finally decided that we’d seek some help in the let’s-have-a-kid department, due as we were to finish our degrees soon and, fingers crossed, find good jobs. We’d talked about it, and *A* surprised me one day by telling me the date of our first appointment with a doctor- April 24th. I remember it because that’s my mom’s birthday.
It was around the date of that appointment that there was a thunderstorm with quite a lot of wind. Maple keys from the tree down the street blew all over the place – thousands of them. I remember sweeping them off the little porch and picking them out of the dahlia pot, which was a full-time front porch resident by then.
But I must’ve missed one.
A few weeks later, between the dahlia stems, I noticed another tiny little budding something. I figured it was just another dahlia sprout, but over the next few weeks, as the leaves on the little sprout got bigger, I saw that it wasn’t a dahlia at all, but a little maple tree.
I decided to see how big it would get. It grew enough that year that the dahlias didn’t come back the next spring. We moved to the little house where we live now, and *A* and I continued to watch our little tree, putting it in a nice sunny spot and watering it regularly. By the time it was two years old, we had to transplant it to a bigger pot (one of those with the rope handles – you know, the giant ones). There’s a picture of the tree in this post from December 2013, when we wrapped Christmas lights around it. 🙂
It wasn’t long before the dots connected in my mind: this tree is the Littlest’s tree. It started growing when we first started thinking about the Littlest. Our path towards our Littlest has changed somewhat, but we’re still on it, still dreaming of the day when we’ll meet him or her. Our Littlest’s tree has gotten bigger and stronger, just like our hopes and dreams of bringing our Littlest home.
Well, last year, our “little” tree grew taller than the roof of our one-story house. We decided it was time to plant it.
The best place, while we’re still considering home ownership, is the Littlest’s future grandparent’s house – where I grew up. They live out in the country and it’s a beautiful place for this little tree. Besides, our niece and nephew each have a tree planted for them, so it’s become sort of a grandkid tradition for my folks.
We visited my folks for my mom’s birthday in April, and with its branches gently wrapped in burlap and eased through the back window of our truck, we made the trip without any trouble. We wanted to make sure to get it planted before the leaves sprouted too much, and before it got too hot.
Here’s what the tree looked like on April 24th, 2015, when we planted the Littlest’s tree – exactly four years to the date of that first doctor’s appointment. From roots to the crown, it was about twelve feet tall.
Tiny little maple leaf-buds, just getting started.
It’s been so cool to watch this tree grow from a tiny little thing. Wonder what it’ll look like in ten years…
Here are a few of the leaves that just couldn’t wait for us to get the tree planted – these sprouted about a week before we headed to Alabama.
On May 15th, after being planted in the ground for three weeks, here’s a photo my mom sent us, with my dad (the Littlest’s Pop) standing next to the tree:
Looks like the Littlest’s tree likes Alabama! Thanks, Mom & Pop for taking such good care of it. 🙂
We sure do miss seeing our now not-so-little tree every day, but we know that it’s much happier now that it can spread its roots out and grow.
Just before we planted the tree, after the much-supervised hole-digging (funny how it always happens that there’s only one shovel), *A* and I each wrote down a single intention, covering these bits of paper with loose dirt and the roots of the Littlest’s tree. (Very counselor-y, I know…but believe it or not, I was the one who thought of this.) You see, this tree has become symbolic to us, whether or not the story makes sense to anyone else. I think it helps us keep up our hopes of becoming parents, however frustrating the wait can feel at times. The symbolism of actually planting the Littlest’s tree – well, the timing of that somehow feels intentional, too.
It’s easy to imagine teaching the Littlest about this tree, having a picnic under it, maybe even (if it keeps up this rate of growth) making a rope swing from one of the branches one day. We’ll have conversations about adoption under this tree, about how much and how long the Littlest has been longed for, about how the roots are like the Littlest’s birth family…the connections are limitless. It’ll be something that will be there always as a connection between us and our Littlest.
While mulling over planting the Littlest’s tree, not too long ago, I found a children’s book called Maple, written by Lori Nichols. I picked it up thinking, “Huh…?” Turns out, it’s a sweet little book about a little girl whose parents plant a maple tree in her honor when she is “still a whisper” in her parent’s minds. The little girl and the tree grow up together, and while the tree isn’t the best playmate (it can’t throw snowballs), she finds it a constant refuge when she needs it. I couldn’t believe it! A book with a story very much like ours! (Well, sort of – the book’s not about adoption, it’s about becoming a big sister…not our story….yet!) Definitely have to add this one to the Littlest’s collection of books. How cool!