Elliot and the apricot tree

For his birthday last month, all my friend Elliot wanted was an apricot tree. Yep, just a tree, nothing else. That’s not really too remarkable, for someone to ask for one single, big, lasting thing. For myself, as I get “on in years” I find that there’s little that I want in terms of tangible presents. I’m at an age where health and financial security, along with family and friends, feel like the best gifts. With those in place, I don’t feel the need for much more—though I’ll never say no to something for the yard or garden!

In Elliot’s case, though, it’s different. Because Elliot is nine years old. And I don’t know any other child who would ask for a fruit tree — and nothing else — for a birthday present. Happily, the family had already selected the tree just before the stay-at-home order was announced.

The tree arrived about a month before the actual birthday. Elliot helped his dad dig a good, welcoming hole, install the 8-foot tree, tamp down the earth, lay a circle of stones, and then a circle of wire fencing to keep out the deer. The day I went to visit, the tree looked healthy and happy, and as if it had been growing there for a while.

End of story? Not quite. In so many ways, this little boy has typical nine-year-old passions; he loves Legos and dragons, Minecraft and Star Wars. But there’s a thoughtful, wise, compassionate part of him, too; a part that gets expressed not only in the wish for an apricot tree, but also in the vision of starting his own non-profit organization to encourage people to plant more trees. The name he’s come up with describes the concept: “Plant Trees Everywhere.”

I love this idea. It’s important, simple, do-able. Many of us have the space in which to plant a tree or two. A large container can be home for a small tree. And there are organizations through which you can donate money for trees to be planted in areas around the world that need them the most. A quick Google search provides plenty of options to choose from.

In the suggestion to “Plant Trees Everywhere,” I also hear encouragement simply to plant, whether it’s a tree or not. Maybe adding even just one native shrub or perennial a year. Though from experience, I can pretty much guarantee that your efforts won’t stop there. And we don’t have to wait for Elliot’s non-profit to launch for us to get started.

Back to the life of a typical nine-year-old … Elliot’s mom baked him a chocolate birthday cake, loaded with chocolate decorations, and organized a drive-by celebration at their West Bradford Township home. Of course, the birthday boy would have loved to have his friends be able to come hang out and have fun as usual on his special day. But Elliot now has a gift that will last him every day, for a very long time, yielding sweet, nourishing treats for him and his family. And I don’t doubt that “Plant Trees Everywhere” will come into existence, too. And that will be Elliot’s gift back to us.

Pam Baxter is an avid organic vegetable gardener who lives in Kimberton. Direct e-mail to pamelacbaxter@gmail.com, or send mail to P.O. Box 80, Kimberton, PA 19442. Share your gardening stories on Facebook at “Chester County Roots.” Pam’s book for children and families, Big Life Lessons from Nature’s Little Secrets, is available on Amazon, along with her new companion field journal, Explore Outdoors, at Amazon.com/author/pamelabaxter.

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