42 comments

Coming of Age Happy Creative Nonfiction

My husband and I found Doug at a Home Depot Arbor Day event during our first year in Washington State. Doug and his fellow twiglings were enveloped in plastic and laid out on a table en masse, free to all takers in celebration of the day. Though he didn’t have a name at that time, he was a Douglas Fir, and so - naturally - he became known as Doug before we even left the store.


We weren’t there that day for that purpose, so I spent the entire trip home Googling the care and feeding of your new baby fir. We had bitten off a lot more than we might be able to chew, but we were determined to make a go of it.


Doug’s first home was a 1’ high wicker basket on the balcony of our third-floor apartment. We nestled him in comfortably, with all of the good mulch and compost that the various sites had suggested, and made certain to keep him positioned in as much sunlight as he could get, here in the Pacific Northwest.


Time passes differently for a fir than for humanity. We didn’t need to transplant Doug until he was about three years old, and then it was only because – by chance – I happened across a plastic-lined, 3’ high wicker laundry hamper which seemed like a good step-up for him when repurposed as a planter. 


Doug had grown only about 3” more from his original height of 12”, and whereas he initially had two “branches,” he now had six. He was growing, but not at an alarming rate; I was relieved about that, because I had fallen in love with little Doug.


He wiggled like a bobble-head toy in the hard rain (of which there is plenty here), almost too tiny for his branches to combat the huge drops… but still, he held strong, and though he grew a slight and inexplicable crook near the top of his crown, he was still a magnificent little fellow. 


Then there was Christmastime: while those first years we only decorated his container – Doug was far too tiny and delicate to support anything more than tinsel – by the time Christmas arrived in the year we transplanted him, he had fluffed! Doug’s main trunk was now a solid and sturdy ¼” thick, with eight whole branches and a straight sprig at the top. What a beautiful, healthy little guy, and we carefully attached the tiniest colorful plastic bells to him, being careful not to damage his arms, and topped him with a homemade glittery star. He was was adorable.


Through the next few years, his growth continued slowly. When we eventually purchased our first new home several miles from the apartment, the move with Doug was harrowing: his container had become brittle due to age and exposure, and it crushed slightly when removing it from the car, damaging one of his limbs. Poor Doug! We bandaged him up with toothpicks and dental floss to save the limb, which worked… hallelujah!


What we didn’t have at our new home was any space to plant him. Formerly the home of a professional landscaper, our new lawn was already full-to-capacity with various exotic plants and trees, leaving no room to plant a new addition. Thus, for the first three years, Doug remained in his now-reinforced wicker laundry hamper.


As with all living things, he nonetheless continued to grow bigger and stronger each year. Slowly but noticeably, he packed on more branches, filling them with needles and a “pouf” of new growth at the end of each one, every spring. And then, one spring, his first tiny cone! We were over the moon at the discovery of this one little sign of Doug’s maturity from twig to treehood.


It began to gnaw at us that he didn’t belong in a stale planter. Doug was from a long line of titans of the forest, and he deserved his chance. Because we had no room for him to lay down roots at our home, we began to search around for better accommodations.


To our surprise and relief, it turned out that the US Forestry Service had a substation not 10 miles from our location, and as long as the tree was a native species like Doug, they would allow him to be planted at their office location. 


Doug was going to live with the wardens of the forest - we were ecstatic!


It took some time for them to work out the logistics, so that it was not until weeks later, a sunny day in May, that a backhoe was finally brought in and put to use digging a suitable space for Doug to stand. He had the perfect spot, showcased right in front of the building for all to see. 


Clean, beautiful, life-sustaining earth. Doug was back home with this mother now, and it showed. Within 2 years, he had risen to a height of four feet and had a near-uncountable number of branches, all fluffed out with short dark-green needles year-round, and exciting bursts of bright green ones at the end of each branch, every spring.


Every year on May 6th, the anniversary of his arrival there, we take a photo with him, showing with outstretched arms how his height changed over the previous year. Unfortunately, due to his years in the containers, they say he might not reach his full adult height for many years longer than normal. Hopefully he forgives us for that, if trees can forgive.


At 14 years old and over six feet tall, he has surpassed us in height. It is difficult to both get him in frame and to make out detail on our faces in photos, now. It makes me a little sentimental about the times we were able to put a sparkly star on top at Christmas, when he was just a Charlie-Brown-style twig on our apartment balcony. In reverence, the US Forestry Service never decorates trees, of course.


But they do allow plaques. For his birthday next year, we’re having a beautiful one custom made to celebrate 15 years of the joy it’s been, watching him grow. It’s not about us, though, so the only wording on the plaque will simply be: Doug.


December 02, 2022 19:58

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42 comments

Douglas W. Carr
21:06 Dec 02, 2022

Indeed to the plaque. Nice story.

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Wendy Kaminski
21:07 Dec 02, 2022

Thank you!

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April GIBSON
01:45 Dec 12, 2022

Great job Wendy! I love that you have used this tree to symbolize how so many parents feel as they watch their children grow. We don't really know what we have at first. We are generally lost with the care and expectations of being a parent, just as you were in the story with your Douglas Fir. We find ourselves attached quickly and we even shorten names to demonstrate our special connection with our children (My son Broden is called Brody. :) My daughter Arya used to let us doll her up, but now she is old enough that she dictates her own c...

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Wendy Kaminski
01:47 Dec 12, 2022

Thank you so much, April! I appreciate you reading, and your kind comments! You know, I didn't even realize that it sounded like a child until I was done writing it. :) You nailed it!

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Susan Catucci
15:32 Dec 10, 2022

My heart hasn't felt quite this warm in a long, long time. This is so sweet and real and heartfelt, I'm not even sure how you did it; I was so completely swept up. I have a feeling I'll be smiling and tearful whenever I hear the name Doug from now on. Thank you for writing something so, so lovely.

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Wendy Kaminski
15:34 Dec 10, 2022

Susan, thank you so much! I am extremely humbled by your comment, and I appreciate you taking the time to convey how much you were touched by Doug. :)

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Rabab Zaidi
14:37 Dec 10, 2022

Very interesting!

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Wendy Kaminski
14:37 Dec 10, 2022

Thank you very much for reading and for the kind comment!

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Delbert Griffith
20:33 Dec 09, 2022

This is such a cute story! I am now loving Doug - a damn tree! Great job on this, Wendy. You are a masterful writer.

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Wendy Kaminski
20:42 Dec 09, 2022

You are too kind! :) Thanks very much, appreciate you taking the time to read and leave such an encouraging thought!!

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Graham Kinross
04:11 Dec 09, 2022

Sentiment can be as strong for plants as animals. Just living through its life with them made Doug part of the family. It’s nice to think it would keep living as well. Even after they’re gone.

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Wendy Kaminski
01:13 Dec 10, 2022

I hope so too, Graham! Thank you for reading and commenting. :)

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Graham Kinross
01:22 Dec 10, 2022

You’re welcome.

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Cindy Strube
19:58 Dec 07, 2022

Lovely cozy perspective on Doug! Your affection for him really comes through … I got attached to him too.

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Wendy Kaminski
20:24 Dec 07, 2022

Thank you, Cindy! :)

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Susan Williams
01:13 Dec 07, 2022

Great story Wendy! Beautifully descriptive and sweet.

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Wendy Kaminski
02:33 Dec 07, 2022

Thanks so much, Susan! :)

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Mike Panasitti
04:43 Dec 03, 2022

This was a touching story that had me rooting for Doug from beginning to end. It's a shame we aren't given the option of including pictures with our stories. I would've liked to see one of Doug while he was growing in the hamper.

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Tommy Goround
13:29 Dec 06, 2022

Lol @rooting

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Wendy Kaminski
04:48 Dec 03, 2022

Thank you so much for the encouraging comments, Mike! Sadly, we don't even have any hamper ones - we never thought about it until he was in the ground! I do have ground ones around somewhere, and I wonder with HTML code if there's a way... hmmm. :) Thanks for reading my story and taking the time to comment!

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Wendy Kaminski
05:39 Dec 03, 2022

Amazingly, with no coding experience and only Google at my fingertips, I was unable to HTML code at all. :P Here's Doug though! https://imgur.com/a/2ue4PuN

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Mike Panasitti
12:48 Dec 03, 2022

Saw him. Thanks for sharing!

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Helen A Smith
07:05 Dec 23, 2022

The strength of feeling for ‘Doug’ is notable. The tree is like a person or part of the family and the narrator can’t bear for it to be hurt or damaged in any way. It’s therefore important to the reader the tree is preserved in every way too. I strongly identify with this. I enjoyed reading the story.

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Wendy Kaminski
14:10 Dec 23, 2022

Thank you so much, Helen! I appreciate you taking the time to read and leave such insightful remarks. :)

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18:53 Dec 15, 2022

Doug has had quite the journey, thank you for sharing it with us!

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Wendy Kaminski
19:16 Dec 15, 2022

Thank you!

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Dylan Mass
14:04 Dec 15, 2022

I love how such a simple name like 'Doug' can carry all the emotions and thoughts with it that you would a child or a pet. Even though he couldn't speak, it felt like the entire story, I was having a conversation with him, telling me about all his adventures. Too bad the US Forestry Service won't decorate him, but at least there is the plaque.

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Wendy Kaminski
14:23 Dec 15, 2022

Thank you so much for reading and for your kind comments, Riggs!

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Ross Dyter
09:10 Dec 15, 2022

Great story, felt very connected to Doug. The way he was described felt far more like a favorite pet or even a child. I was glad he got to go in the ground and grow properly in the end.

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Wendy Kaminski
14:24 Dec 15, 2022

Thank you for reading and taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment, Ross! :)

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Leanne Drain
08:21 Dec 15, 2022

I really enjoyed this story. It's brilliant how you have captured the moment, and the characters feel authentic and real I loved this story.

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Wendy Kaminski
14:24 Dec 15, 2022

Thank you so much, Leanne - I really appreciate your encouragement! :)

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Lonnie Larson
21:43 Dec 14, 2022

Yet another fine story. I'm glad everything turned out all right for Doug. Masterfully written.

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Wendy Kaminski
21:57 Dec 14, 2022

Thanks very much, Lonnie! Glad you liked it. :)

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Marty B
06:13 Dec 13, 2022

Go Doug!

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Wally Schmidt
19:31 Dec 12, 2022

This reminded me too of raising a child that you cherish, realizing in the back of your mind, that if you've 'done it right' they will be able to thrive on their own one day. A bittersweet feeling to be sure. Thanks for including the link to the pics. He is a very handsome guy.

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Wendy Kaminski
20:43 Dec 12, 2022

Thank you so much, Wally! :-)

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Wally Schmidt
01:44 Dec 13, 2022

Isn't it great to think that long after you've come and gone, Doug will be standing tall.

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Wendy Kaminski
03:04 Dec 13, 2022

Totally. :)

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L M
13:55 Dec 12, 2022

This is a cute, heartwarming story. Thanks, Wendy.

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Wendy Kaminski
14:05 Dec 12, 2022

Thank you so much for the kind words!

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L M
14:08 Dec 12, 2022

No problem. Yourewelcome.

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