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Little Tree Grow Grow

Little Tree Grow Grow

Jennifer Scarlott’s daughter found the seed of a silver maple tree when she was five years old. Her daughter has now graduated from high school and she tells us what happened to the little seed.

Dear Cub kids,

By the time you read this letter, my daughter will have graduated from high school! Julia is 18, and will begin attending university in late August. For a mom, this is very hard to believe… that day by day, month by month, year by year, the cherished newborn, baby, toddler, older child, and teenager, has grown to the very cusp of adulthood! What a wonderful, amazing journey, which has been delectably slow and astonishingly rapid at the same time.

Julia with her Silver Maple tree.
Photo: Daniel Rosenthal.

Now, it is as if she is a fledgling bird, perched just at the edge of her nest, flapping her wings to strengthen them for flight. I am writing to you about her, and about the two of us, here in Cub because one of the strongest and deepest bonds between this fledgling and me is our passion for nature.

I began writing these letters to Cub kids way back in early 2000. Only a few short months after writing my first letter, my daughter, then five years old, found a maple seedling in her playground sandbox at school. Since she and her pre-kindergarten classmates had studied seeds that year, her teacher encouraged her to bring the seed home, plant it, and watch what happened.

I remember the seed. It was the tiniest thing, just the beginning of a little germinating root, but it had a determined look about it. At home, I gave Julia some soil and a tiny pot. She named the tree-to- be, ‘Little Tree Grow Grow.’

Wow, did that tree grow. And grow. I wish I had kept track of how many different pots it had to be moved into, like a hermit crab outgrowing its shell! Luckily, we lived in an apartment with a terrace, and the tree was able to live a hardy, outdoor life, braving the elements and the seasons, until at eight-years-old, we knew for sure that this amazing being needed to live in the earth – no pot was going to be able to contain a tree clearly destined for greatness!

‘Little Tree Grow Grow’, it turned out, was a silver maple, and the little seed Julia found all those years ago had been dropped by an enormous, old silver maple mom growing near the playground at Julia’s school, that children and teachers have tapped for maple syrup during each year’s spring thaw. She is a beloved old giant.

Well, it was time for the young giantess to go home to her mother! With the help of teachers and maintenance workers, we moved her, in her enormous pot, onto a small, flatbed truck for the short drive back to school. There, in a wonderful spring ceremony, a merry band of pre-K and kindergarten children helped to plant ‘Little Tree Grow Grow’ in the ground just a hop, skip and a jump from the sandbox where the tiny seed had been found eight years earlier, and almost within the shadow of her mother.

And now, five more years have passed. ‘Little Tree Grow Grow’ is a towering 13-year-old beauty, and Julia is ready to fly! This year’s pre-K children have heard Julia’s story, and each day, they excitedly gather the seeds showering down from mother silver maple, and run around the playground planting them in every available corner.

Meanwhile, a few days before her graduation ceremony, my fledgling walked across campus from her high school to her primary school, to take photographs of ‘Little Tree Grow Grow’ for a school field guide she has been working on. I have had a lot of fun being Julia’s assistant for this project, staying up into the night when Julia has been overloaded with other homework, helping her with some of the final details on the species of flora and fauna at her school.

At the back of the book, in photographs and words, is the story of ‘Little Tree Grow Grow.’ It’s a natural history story, of two beings joined in care and love, a young girl and a tree, growing through the years together, becoming graceful and resilient, and ready for the wider world.

While Julia takes flight, her silver maple will stay rooted for countless years to come, dropping its yellow autumn leaves on five year olds, and always there to welcome home the one who raised her.

To children, to parents, to teachers, to the nature and nurture that sustain all of us, happy graduation!

Author: Jennifer Scarlott, First appeared in: Sanctuary Cub, July 2013.


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