It was a conversation we had with Leo every year. "Dad, what kind of tree are you planting this season?" He always had an answer that made it obvious that he had been thinking about it.
"Gosh, those river birch sure are pretty. I might put one in the back yard so we can see it out of the kitchen window." Or, "The pear tree could use a companion, don't you think?"
Each summer, Ramie would walk the property with Leo and learn when the Russian olive trees out by the road were planted or the history of the apple trees that dotted the southern part of the lot. "Maybe we should give those a trim so I can get under with the mower this year," he would say.
When it was time to wash the car he would pull it under the giant maple tree in the front yard so the tree could get a little extra drink in the process.
After Tim's sister, Stacy, died, the cousins knew right away that a memorial tree was the perfect gift for Mom and Dad. The weeping cherry could not have been a more appropriate choice, growing strong outside the living room window where it could not be missed.
On our journey with Norma we decided to memorialize Leo's first birthday without him by finding a place to plant a tree, wherever we found ourselves on that date.
That turned out to be Bluffton, South Carolina, where its thoughtful mayor insisted we plant Leo's tree in one of her town parks. When asked what type of tree she would like, Norma looked around and pointed to a redbud tree in full bloom saying, "I sure like those ones."
So a redbud it was, which the city provided and planted in a downtown children's park to be protected and cared for forever. When we returned to visit a year later, we saw that a second redbud tree was planted in Norma's memory, as well.
When Miss Norma's final days approached six months later, we found ourselves 3,000 miles away in Friday Harbor, Washington. The town manager knew how important trees were to our family and offered to plant one in Overlook Park in her memory.
Fifty or so former strangers showed up to celebrate Norma's life that day, each pouring a shovel of dirt over the rootball of the delightfully-hunched Japanese maple the town provided.
There are plaques commemorating the occasions at all three trees. If you happen to visit any of these trees, please send us a photo; we would love to see how they have grown.