My doorbell rings even though the hour is still early. Coffee sits on my dining room table with the newspaper spread out in front of me reading about folks I know and those I don’t. I scramble to the door knowing who is there before I answer. Most of my friends just walk on in, so it has to be the kids from Angola Middle School. I hear their laughter and chattering before I even get to the door. And there they are. They are smiling from ear to ear, and so am I! It is Arbor Day in Angola, and they are here to plant my free tree from the City. “The tree is around back, I’ll meet you there,” I say, and all twenty students take off running to the backyard. I hurry to grab my jacket and meet them there in the early morning light with my camera tucked into my pocket.
I think this is my fifth year to be the recipient of a free tree from the Angola Tree Board. The announcement always comes in the water bill, and the first 100 folks to call gets the trees. This year I called early enough to get the pink dogwood. I love this gift from my city even if it is getting a bit crowded in my yard.
Mr. Hottell’s students all chatter at once. “Ooohhh…I love your house…I love your yard…I love your garden.” I smile at them thinking all the while how nice it is that this group of enthusiastic students appreciate this old house and the beauty it resonates. They gather together for a photo to capture the moment. They think it is just a picture of a bunch of kids planting a tree, but it is so much more than that. The photo captures such sweet joy and hope on their faces in the morning light. The students dig the hole while Mr. Hottell cuts off the burlap as the rest of us talk. I tell them about the other trees, and they listen with fascination. “This service berry tree is from the city. Students planted it a few years ago. The folk lore says that when this tree blooms it is time to bury the dead.” The students look at me wide-eyed as if I am making this up. I laugh at them and tell them not to worry, there are no dead folks in my garage. I point out the flowering redbud which is still pretty in purple and tell them students planted that one too.
Once the tree is planted they take turns stomping the dirt down around it and ask for water to give it a good drink. I point them in the direction of my rain barrel. It was great fun watching them get water from the barrel. It is my opportunity to point out other environmental factors in my yard. “And there is my clothesline and my bike. I go without a car at least three days a week,” I tell them. I point out the herb garden, vegetable garden, and the berry patch.
One girl tells a story of a pine tree her folks planted when she was a baby. They moved away so she doesn’t know how big it is now. I smile at her story. I planted trees for my boys years ago…hundreds of them, and I also moved away.
Finally they gather up their tools and buckets and I walk them to the garden gate. Within seconds they are gone…down the driveway…into life.
Scott Hottell and I share a parting thought. “They are great,” I say. “Our job is to love these kids.” He nods in agreement.
I close the gate behind him and walk over to my new pink dogwood. It is young and fresh, just like the students who planted it. Their footprints are now part of my garden soil, and I love knowing that.
My yard is indeed getting a bit crowded, but it is like treasures in my house. When I bought my old house the peonies and irises were in full bloom, and I have planted so much more…each with a story.
Perhaps I have enough trees, but then again, next year Jonah will be in 7th grade, and it will be his turn to come plant a tree in my yard and let his footprints join in with his classmates as they become part of the soil in my garden.
Yes, one more year…one more tree.