Many years ago, when my daughter was perhaps six or so years of age, she returned from a late spring Manhattan Zoo outing and presented me, her hazel eyes sparkling with excitement, with a few maple seeds that she and her friend had collected from the sidewalk at the zoo. Assuring me that these were special seeds from a marvelous and special tree, she demanded that I plant them immediately. And I, acknowledging that they were magic seeds (made so merely by her efforts to please a gardening father), did indeed plant them with her help and direction, all the while thinking it unlikely that they would ever germinate and grow from the immature little samara that they were.
One blasted little seed did grow however, to my daughter's delight, and after finding a one-foot tall Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) seedling in a very poor place to allow further growth of a tree, I subsequently transplanted the sapling not once, but twice, all the while secretly hoping that the tree wouldn't survive the move(s). It sounds terrible now, but this very common North American species with brittle wood and shallow roots was not high on the list of trees I wished to add to my landscape.
Evidently, however, God ignores pretentious gardening fathers and protects the dreams of stringy-blond-haired little girls because that maple has grown and thrived to become the largest tree of my yard, surpassing even the volunteer Cottonwoods that I have also allowed to mature. At around 12 years of age, it is perhaps twenty feet tall with a trunk 6 or so inches in diameter, otherwise unremarkable except for its health and the mass of light yellow leaves that it drops for my lawnmower to pick up each Fall.
My daughter's maple surprised me this spring by setting seed for the first time, just as my little girl prepares to graduate High School, leave our nest and go off to college this summer. ProfessorRoush, for all his deficiencies, is not so spiritually obtuse that he has missed this not-so-subtle cosmic hint about the nature of time. Little gangly girls do grow up, despite the desires of their fathers, to become beautiful independent women, just as the tallest maple can grow from the smallest seed. I get it, okay?
This tree will always be a part of my garden, serving forever to remind me of my young daughter and the seeds we planted, growing steadfastly and strong despite all the obstacles faced. It has been with us through the Spring of young family life, the storms of adolescence, and it will soon serve to provide shelter and relief from the hot Kansas sun for an aging and reminiscing gardener. Someday I hope that, long beyond my time, when this tree's time on Earth is over and being gauged in the number of growth rings, someone remembers to count the first dozen rings as I would, in the terms of memory. This was the year she lost and regained her front teeth, this ring for the year the braces were removed, this one the first time she drove a car, this the year of her first teen love, this the year of her graduation....