From Seeds of the Great Oak

Submitted into Contest #175 in response to: Start your story with two people planting a tree together.... view prompt


African American Middle School Black

From seeds of the Great Oak

With every grade advancement, my daughter’s homework challenges me as much as her. Now in Science class, they are learning about plants; we will research the oak tree for her project. Wow, in Virginia alone grows, 139 variations. The oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus of the beech family. There are approximately 500 extant species of oaks. The common name "oak" also appears in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus (stone oaks), as well as in those of unrelated species such as Grevillea robusta (silky oaks) and the Casuarinaceae (she-oaks). Class tracheophyte, Kingdom: Plantae Family: Fagaceae, Order: Fagales.  I don’t know how to pronounce half of the words I just wrote, but I am sure my daughter does; she’s a junior Lorax (her favorite Dr. Seuss book.) All that said, I know that daddy thought that oaks were majestic trees. They were my father’s favorite trees.

Remember the acorns we put in the ice tray, in the strange growing jelly, hoping to have new trees to plant by the spring? Look, there are five that germinated. You see those things that look like worms sticking out of the acorn shells; they are the beginning of the roots. Look, we have five little seedlings. They are still too fragile to grow in the yard. We can transfer them to flower pots until they are about a foot tall. Each of them gets a pot alone, so their roots can spread, and I will make sure you can visit again before school starts in September. “Grandma, can I stay to help water them every day?” Baby, I would love your company, but we could kill them watering that much. Remember we only put four drops of water in each hole with the acorns? Can you help me transfer them to their first pot if your mom has time to help us? “Please, mom, can we? “If we can get it done in an hour or less, we have to pick up your brother from camp.”

Mom loves getting her hands dirty. Growing is in her blood. I don’t have a green thumb or pinkie and don’t even own anything green in my closet. I love watching my 10-year-old daughter light up over planning the yard layout and planting trees, bushes, vegetables, and flowers with her grandma. That is a connection I don’t have with mom, but now I have a bridge to both generations.

 Grandma bought this two-acre plot after grandpa suddenly passed a year ago. The land was sectioned off for sale after the older man who had been holding up growth and expansion in our town fell to his death while working on the roof of his house in 2019. The parcel of land that grandma purchased was the first release of ten acres. At one time, this land and forty-eight other acres were tobacco farms. When the decision to make the land residential was made for purchase by anyone wishing to be a first-time homeowner, four other families also purchased a two-acre tract of land here on Glendale Drive. Given that these parcels were new residential areas, we had to have them graded, dig a well, build a house, and plant flowers, a vegetable garden, and trees.

Two acres of land may not sound like much, but it is when you have been dreaming of ownership for twenty years. Grandpa used to work in the tobacco fields on the opposite side of the road down what’s now known as Mulberry Cove. I remember how dad complained about the trees being poisoned by the tobacco because the field was right on the property line, and the rain would run off and stunt the growth of new saplings. Most of those trees were pine.

Many different oak trees exist, including white oak, red oak, and live oak. Oak trees are known for their strong wood used in construction and furniture-making. In the olden days, most houses were built out of pine, but the floors were oak. Oak is beautiful and expensive, so it’s used for flooring, not walls. Foundations were only a thing of necessity once cheaper materials began to be used for flooring. A famous shade tree, the pin oak grows to a height of 80 feet with a trunk diameter of up to 3 feet.

Pin oak acorns contain approximately 45.4 percent total carbohydrates and 15.4 percent crude fat; according to the U.S., Oaks are one of the oldest and most widely spread trees on this planet. They existed way before humans were here. They feed various living creatures with their leaves and acorns. Oaks played a crucial role in human history as well. Early humans built their homes, created tools, and constructed strong ships from oak wood. These trees are still vital sources of raw material in our modern time. Unlike many other trees, oak trees have not gone extinct for a long time. This is mainly because their seeds are cased in hard shells. Their acorns and leaves are coated with tannic acid, preventing fungi and insects that could harm them. Oak trees can live 700-1000 years. When the trees surpass the 1,000-year mark, their growth slows down, and some parts die. One oak tree will produce ten million acorns over its lifetime. So, these five seedlings will be here well past our family, now and seventy future generations. That means your children and their children for hundreds of decades past hundreds of the time we can imagine.

Daddy always said that the trees next to your house should be oak. I’m not sure what he disliked about other trees, but he said oak branches were strong enough to support the weight of a swing. I don’t think he was talking about a child’s toy, but I never asked him. He said that we would not have pine trees growing in the front yard near any house of his because pine trees burst into fire faster than any oak when struck by lightning.

This information painted the oak as a majestic tree for me now also. How cool is that!

December 09, 2022 12:23

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Thomas Haen
14:43 Dec 15, 2022

Hi Kimberley I am not entirely sure how to respond to your story. I love the mother-daughter angle and the way in which you give the members of your family a voice. I think my favorite passage is the one where we listen to your memories of putting the acorns in the ice tray and how this magical connection between between the kid and the growing tree evolves.


Kimberly Walker
16:41 Dec 15, 2022

Thank you. It's written to fit the subject but also depicts my mom-grandma relationship when I was ten and my now relationship as the grandma


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