The leaves are about to put on a beautiful show before they take a winter hiatus. Lately, however, I find my thoughts drifting to spring in Missouri.
Thanks to the trees, it is a visual delight. Hillsides are dotted with white and pink as dogwoods and redbuds bloom.
As an adult, the two pieces of property I have owned were each missing a redbud. I corrected the situation within months of living at each place by visiting a local nursery and selecting what I felt would be a hearty tree.
The redbud at my current home is in my front yard. From the inside, it is visible from my living room and two bedrooms. Outside, I love to look at it from my little porch chair and it’s the first thing that greets me when I pull into my driveway.
A redbud tree is a must-have, not just for its beauty, but for the person it reminds me of. I cannot look at a redbud tree without thinking of Anna.
An ardent reader, she keeps me on my toes with suggestions for books to enjoy. Well-read and incredibly intelligent, she is someone I look up to for her inner-strength. I have watched her carry herself with a quiet dignity as she faces challenges life throws at her.
I’ve watched her my entire life. Even if I don’t see her, she is there: a constant presence in my mind and heart.
An early riser, she would take care of the farm, make breakfast, drive a school bus, and accomplish more by noon than the majority of people I have encountered. I watched her raise cattle, vegetables, and daughters. She could change a flat tire, put a kid who sassed her on the bus in his or her place, and still make it home in time to fix supper.
She defied stereotypes of the day and did things that most women shied away from. When we were both younger, I always asked her if she got her deer during hunting season. Her usual reply was, “Yes.”
When I, her first granddaughter, found out she had been in the Army, I was not really too surprised. Instead, I found myself even more impressed with this quiet woman who often tried to get me to stop talking so much.
I watched my grandma visit my great-grandmother and attend to her needs for the first 10 years of my life. She taught me the meaning of the word, family. Her love for her mother is something that made a true impression upon me.
When I was able to tag along to visit great-grandma, the drive from Big Piney to Licking started on a gravel road lined with cedar, dogwood, redbud, oak, pine, and maple trees. Sometimes we listened to a Cardinals game or music on the radio. We would also chat a bit, but it was the trees I focused on.
Apparently they didn’t just catch my eye. Little did I suspect that my grandma wanted one of those trees for herself. A plan was hatching in her brain.
One warm Missouri day, grandma declared I was going to assist her on a mission to obtain a redbud tree to transplant near her kitchen window. This was a far cry from my current reality of going to the nursery to pick one out. There was a lot of pulling, digging, sweating, and holding involved. I was displeased to say the least.
With sweat dripping from my face, I told her it was her tree and her house and stormed off as we were entering the last stage of the operation: planting it.
Just like that, I mouthed off to a woman I respect. To this day, I wish I were one-tenth as awesome as she is and in that moment I left her when she needed me. Her quiet disapproval and disappointment in me that day is something I will never forget. I am still ashamed. Why didn’t I just hold the tree so she could finish planting it?
Fortunately, it’s turned into a bit of a joke now that I am 42 and not in the single digits. In her moves over the past few years, she has had redbuds in her yard just like I do. One time I bought her a redbud as a housewarming gift. She got a quiet chuckle from it.
I cannot think of a more fitting symbol for my grandmother than a redbud tree. With its beauty and strength, it (like she) has something to offer during every season.
Those heart-shaped leaves always remind me of how much I love her. As my redbud drops its leaves this fall, I will patiently await the pink blooms of spring and think of my grandma, Anna.
PS — Grandma, if you asked me to hold that tree while you planted it all over again, I would.
By Michelle Turner
(Michelle Turner lives in Union, Mo.)