Originally posted on The New American Dad (www.BloggyDad.net) on July 6, 2013… with ongoing hopes it blooms healthy this spring!
Years ago, I had a friend who was moving. One of her major challenges in completing this task was finding a company that could move a tree in her front yard to her new home. I had to wonder. Why spend all this time and money to move one tree? She explained that the tree had been planted for their daughter when she was born. It was their little girl’s special tree. I loved the idea immediately and stored it away, knowing I would do the same if I was ever blessed with a child.
Here I am, about a decade later, and my daughter has arrived. Once we were home and settled I began shopping for the tree. There are LOTS of trees to choose from. There are shade trees, full sun trees, and those that need both. There are big, fat, wide trees and long, tall, skinny trees. There are domestic trees, foreign trees, and some special hybrids created by the great tree-minds of our world. Japanese maples, flowering pears, oak and elm, cedar and magnolia… on and on it goes. It was no easy task. Then I found it. I found the perfect tree. A kousa dogwood. It will grow to be a good size but not too enormous. It is fairly hardy so the risk of me killing it is lower (very important given my limited landscaping skills). It turns a nice color in the fall and produces berries that will attract many birds. Best of all, it has bright white flowers that bloom in June and July. My daughter will grow up surrounded by trees and nature, but she will always know this one particular tree is her special tree… and it will bloom for her birthday every year.
Clearly, I am not the one who invented this birth tree idea. My friend did not invent it, either. It actually goes back over many years of tradition from all parts of the globe. There is a Jewish tradition of planting a birth tree, complete with a ritual to honor it. A cedar would be planted for a boy and a cypress for a girl. In China, the custom was to plant an empress tree when a new baby arrived. Similar traditions also appear in many African cultures. In every corner of the world it seems you can find a variation on the birth tree. Some cultures even insist that the baby’s placenta be buried with the roots of the tree. I decided to pass on that particular detail, however. =)
But… what if you live in an apartment or rental property? What if you have very little land to plant a tree? There are options for you too. Contact your local town or your state and see if there is protected land where they will let you plant a new, native tree you can visit over the years. You can also plant trees online. The National Forest Foundation, for example, has their Tree for Me campaign where a very small donation pays for a tree to be planted in a National Forest. Organizations like Heifer International allow you to purchase tree saplings that are donated to families in need around the world. Perhaps your parents or a sibling has space in their yard where they will let you plant a tree. You may not have the actual tree in your yard, but you can create a nice keepsake such as a framed certificate or tree-related gift that marks the occasion and stays with your child.
Let’s not get hung up on the term “birth tree” either. Many parents plant a tree for the first, second, or maybe third birthday. This clearly does not have to be linked to birth in order to have meaning. You could plant a tree for a preschool graduation and it will still have all the sentimental meaning you need, and maybe an older child even appreciates it more. Maybe they help you plant it! Don’t limit yourself if you like the idea… just make it happen and make it special.
I already love looking at my daughter’s tree. I love watering it. I love to picture her playing around it or reading under its shade one day. I hope they both grow strong and healthy together as the years progress. It was an insanely hot week and a lot of work getting her tree in the ground but it truly was a labor of love. Still, as I came into the house panting, sweaty, and sore… I was glad we did not have twins or triplets. I need a break before planting the second tree! =)
Do you have a birth tree in your yard?
Do you have a different tradition you can share?