Despite the Odds, My Mother Keeps Planting Trees

Not the trees lost in the ice storm. These are a few of the trees and shrubs my mother planted, only about 10+ years later.
Not the trees lost in the ice storm. These are a few of the trees and shrubs my mother planted, only about 10+ years later.

Thanks to a horrific ice storm in 2014, my parents lost some of the most important trees in their yard. So this spring, they decided to have some new trees planted. After telling me about the three fruit trees and eight bushes the landscapers were putting in, Mom sighed. “I know it’s kind of crazy since I won’t be around to see them when they’re mature.”

I pointed out that there was no way to know that for sure. After I got off the phone, I realized that I should have reminded her of the trees she planted when I was a little girl. I’ve mentioned her “sticks” before, but I didn’t include some important details.

One of the few pictures I have that shows a bit of the yard. My sister Cleo painting in 1987. Notice all the TREES.
One of the few pictures I have that shows a bit of the yard. My sister Cleo painting in 1987. Notice all the TREES.

First, that ranch house was in desperate need of landscaping. It was on a hillside so steep that the builders had to bulldoze a flat place to put the house on. In the process, they scraped away the topsoil and left the yard bare. It was straw-covered dirt when we moved in, depressing and in danger of washing away in the next rain. So Mom got busy and started planting things, including trees and shrubs.

The astonishing thing about her planting those bare-root baby trees was that this house was one of many we’d lived in. Dad’s work as a civil engineer for the Public Health Service took us all over the country. It was the fifth dwelling and fourth state I’d lived in during my life, and I was only in second grade. If you do the math, it means we moved nearly every year.

Mom knew the odds, but she still dug holes in the rocky soil and planted trees. She’s told me more than once that she never expected to see them grow up because she was sure we would be moving again soon. But instead of relocating again in 24 months, they lived in that house for 24 years. We all got to see the trees grow up. Our dust-bowl yard turned into a green and enticing paradise.

A photo from my mother's college graduation in 1989; fortunately, I stood so far back, I caught the edges of a few of her trees.
A photo from my mother’s college graduation in 1989; fortunately, I stood so far back, I caught the edges of a few of her trees.

Which brings us back to my first thought: you just never know. My Mom did what she felt was the right thing, even though she was sure she wouldn’t benefit from the effort. And she provides a great example even today, planting trees and shrubs to improve the neighborhood, even though she thinks the plants will outlive her. But you never know. Maybe she’ll outlive them.

Author: Kit Dunsmore

Kit is a writer and an artist who adores living in Colorado. Whether she's hiking in the mountains or walking the prairies, she's always watching the wildlife in order to learn more about the natural world.

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