Expect the Unexpected

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Family Tree


Gathering around the newly-planted family tree.

What do you get the woman who has everything, for her birthday? Her 80th birthday no less. A milestone. That was the dilemma for my family. My mother in law Joan’s birthday is June 10, so we were faced with the challenge of how best to celebrate this special day.

Planting a tree is not as easy as you might think.

Planting a tree is not as easy as you might think.

When I say Joan is the woman who has everything, I mean it. It’s not because she has a lot of material possessions like a closet full of shoes or shelves full of knickknacks. Just the opposite. She’s an old school practical Yankee New Englander. A farmer’s daughter. Down to earth with no airs or pretensions. She doesn’t collect stuff or waste money on frivolities. Because she has all the things she needs, she doesn’t have any wants.

Joan is a modest woman with many talents and doesn’t even know it. She’s the best home cook I know and makes amazing barbecued turkeys on the grill, and delectable apple pies. In another day and era she might have been a food expert or critic. She has an amazing palate and eats everything, head to tail. Holiday times are great fun. After dinner, the family likes to gather together and play pinochle and canasta. Joan is something of a card shark. I always want her for my partner.

Living a quiet life with my father-in-law, Joan has two children, my husband and his sister. Together we’ve given them four grandchildren. Hoping to do something memorable for Joan’s 80th, my sister-in-law and niece came up with the idea of getting her a tree. A sugar maple in the front yard had been a fixture for years, and had to be cut down, creating a large open space that screamed for color and shade. My father-in-law said someday he planned to put another tree in.

That someday came this weekend.

We all agreed a tree would be a great idea for Joan’s birthday gift. It was practical, something she needed, and was pretty too. My sister-in-law and niece went to a local nursery and selected a 12-foot Bloodgood Japanese Red Maple tree. We decided to save some money by planting it ourselves and quickly realized you can save time or money, but not both.

It took some time, a somewhat LONGER time than expected, to dig the proper-sized hole for the tree, and then lift the tree from the truck and put it into the hole. A lot of sweat equity! For all the sordid details, check out the slideshow below. We were very fortunate that my in laws have great neighbors, Sue and Keith, who joined in and provided much needed expertise and muscle.

A true labor of love, we have a new family tree. Happy Birthday Joan!

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