August 6, 2012

Look Who's Taller Than Me Now

It was 1995 and I was in church with my sons. The oldest, 15 at the time, was next to me, and when we stood up he annoyed me mightily by standing on the kneeler. At his age he could at least give me 45 minutes in church without goofing off. A little respect.

"Get down" I hissed at him standing there towering over me.

"I'm not standing on anything" he said. I looked over, and he wasn't.

Without my noticing, without my ever seeing it happen, he had grown taller than me. A lot taller, just like that.

How did that happen so abruptly? I saw him every day, knew his physical form.

In my defense, at 15 his lanky body was either sprawled out or draped over something most of the time and I never actually saw him standing up, so how could a mother know? At home his most frequent position was hunched over, rooting in the lower depths of the refrigerator, which occupied him for long stretches.  So that day in church startled me.

I had that same startled double take this summer looking out at a small tree that has been in my view every day for six years.  Every day I see the black gum sapling (Nyssa sylvatica, or tupelo) out by the dry creek bed and I have gotten used to its dwarfy little shape.

For years it looked like this, with a missing leader and funny shape. It was my height, but with the flat top I could look right over it when I stood by the creek bed

I got used to it.  It just looked like that and never seemed to get any bigger. I trussed the branches in the center and put tension on one to force it upright, hoping it would form a leader, and that gave it an awkward pointy bit in the middle, but no real height.

Then one day this July I looked out toward the creek bed and the tupelo wasn't there any more. Gone, overnight.

Disappeared from my garden, and in its place a shapely black gum twice the size of the little one was standing by the creek bed.  Upright, pyramidal, and doubled in height.

Look who's taller than me now.

16 comments:

  1. What a clever segue into your tupelo story. My goodness doesn't time fly. It doesn't matter what you are watching grow. Your little sapling has grown big and strong tree just like your son. It is just shocking how fast they grow.

    On another note I had some Tupelo Honey while in Asheville this spring. I didn't know what a tupelo was then but now I do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa, the tupelo we grow up here in the north is Nyssa sylvatica, and it doesn't produce the tupelo honey you enjoyed in Asheville --- that comes from Nyssa aquatica. I wish I did get honey, but instead I enjoy this tree's shape and leafiness and it has wonderful fall color. It's also called a Pepperidge tree here.

      Delete
  2. Nice example of what happens in gardening and in life – shockingly and before you realize it: Time goes. Faster as you age, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lee, I still think of this as a brand new garden, all immaturity and baby plants, but some are a good seven years growing here, and you are right, time sped right along. And they grew!

      Delete
  3. How rewarding. I've noticed that as gardens age, so do gardeners. But it's good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. James, Maturing plants are all good --- the aging gardener is a little weary, though! But planting and seeing how things leap up really is rewarding and keeps us young.

      Delete
  4. Funny how something can just take off and grow the moment you stop paying attention. It seems that even for perennials it takes a few years for them to truly get established. Then they are ready for anything...even a summer of rather severe drought. The fortitude of the trees in this area have impressed me this summer. Sadly, many of the young newly planted evergreens and maples in the vacant lot beside us have perished.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jennifer, That must be it --- the plants wait until we aren't looking, they are shy that way! Too bad about the new trees that were lost next to you. Newly planted saplings need a lot of water and favorable conditions at first.

      Delete
  5. Funny how things can grow overnight! Your tupelo has grown from a gangly teenager into a lovely adult.

    Enjoyed the story about your son--I'm now experiencing this with grandkids:) I don't get to see my oldest grandson, soon to be a teenager, as often as his younger cousins, and every time I see him he seems to have grown a few more inches. I know it won't be long before he'll be towering over me, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rose, I can't imagine what it feels like to have grandkids taller than I am!

      Delete
  6. i remember you writing about this tree. It's a beauty!! It has such great form if I hadn't know it was missing its leader, I never would have guessed. My son (6'5") has been towering over me (5'8") for a long time. At some point he stopped being an awkward teen and is growing into a man. It's beautiful to watch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tammy, I know what you mean. I have two sons who are now in their early 30s and it is a wonder to see them as mature, grown men. You certainly grew a tall one :- )

      Delete
  7. These adolescents, both plants and people, can really surprise us! I watched my own three sons shoot up like that, until one day I was the shortest one in my family. It was quite an adjustment, but nice when I needed something off a tall shelf!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Deborah, tall sons can come in very handy. And tall trees can provide shade... it's all good!

      Delete
  8. Oh, Momma, you must be so proud ... and you deserve every second of it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joene, Proud indeed --- of the sons for sure, but even of the little tree : )

      Delete

Sorry about requiring code verification -- I experimented with turning it off to make commenting easier, and I got too much spam. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and to type in silly codes. I appreciate hearing from you.