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.