Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October Glory

A couple years ago my wife bought me a tree for my birthday, which is really one of the coolest and most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received. The young tree was planted (by professionals) in our front yard with the expectation that someday it would shade most of the front of our house, especially the living room. As of now it’s only something like ten or twelve feet tall, and not so thick around that I can’t wrap my fingers all the way around the trunk. But that’s kind of the point of the gift, something that grows and continues on and on and maybe, in some small way, makes the world a better place. “Let us cultivate our garden,” as Voltaire put it.

So of course now we’re thinking about moving. Which has nothing to do with the tree somehow disappointing us or anything! Back in 2009 the major considerations when my wife and I were house-shopping were (a) close to my wife’s job; (b) enough space for all our stuff, and bedrooms for us, our one child, and maybe one more; and ( c ) affordable. And we found (a) and (b) for a song and jumped at it. Now the “maybe two kids” have become “definitely three” and one of them has started school, and we’re feeling a bit cramped on top of wondering if maybe it’s not a good idea to relocate to another district where the high school scores somewhere north of the absolute lowest possible rating. Oh and of course my wife has since changed jobs so we’re not tied to that particular geographical mooring, either.

It’s just funny how life rarely conforms to your long-term plans, and adopting a tree to watch it mature by decades is an act of unbelievable optimism (or possibly pessimism, if you’re unhappy where you are but feel like nothing is ever going to change). We probably won’t be moving in the next three or four years, but I’d also be extremely surprised if we were still in our current house in ten years (despite vowing in the weeks after we moved in that we’d never EVER move again, so many times that I lost count). I hope that whoever lives in our house in ten years appreciates the maple tree out front, and for that matter I hope whoever occupies the residence fifty or two hundred years on enjoys the shade as well. As for my family, wherever we end up, we’ll simply start again and plant another tree and see how it goes.

That’s what birthdays are best for, as I reckon them: not commemorating how many years are behind you but celebrating the fact that there’s some unknowable amount of time still ahead of you. You make more plans, you set more goals, and you take another swing at making the world a better place while you’re here.