Thursday, August 18, 2005

Lincoln meets World War II

A few years ago, my sister sent me a unique gift for my birthday. It was a young tree, an oak which is a direct descendant of the giant oak that marked the area of Abraham Lincoln's birthplace.
I was surprised to discover that through this company one can order trees descended from the properties of many famous people. Here's a list of some of the categories of tree owners they offer: American Presidents, American Revolution, Environmentalists, Native American, African American, Civil War, Famous Women, Military Heroes, Adventurers, Authors and Artists, Inventors and Science, Texas, Landmarks, and Children's Favorites. By golly, that should cover everyone's interests! They even have a new offering - Anyone want a descendant of a tree from Elvis's Graceland in Memphis?

Well, my sister, who knows every possible thing about me and my obsessions, appropriately sent me the Lincoln tree. It even came with a plaque of certification. We planted the tree in the yard and stuck the plaque in the ground beside it. Every Maine winter it lies dormant, and every spring when all the other trees are in bloom, the Lincoln tree still sleeps. Every spring we think that at last the poor Kentucky tree has succumbed to the harsh Maine winters. Then every July, when we have just about lost hope, the first leaves appear on the Lincoln tree and soon it looks vibrant again. So far, so good!

We've been joking about the tree lately because our Realtor, Diane, has taken a liking to mentioning the Lincoln tree when she takes people on tours of our house. At a showing a few weeks ago, the clients, Diane, Ed and I had congregated on the porch after the tour when Diane said, "Oh, yes, I forgot to mention the famous Lincoln tree from Lincoln's birthplace!" She pointed into the yard. The man scanned his eyes across the yard, seeing lots of mature trees, of course. "Which one is it?" he asked. "That one!" said Diane, trying to point in a clearer way. "Which one?" the man asked again, squinting through the afternoon sun. At that point, Ed offered to take the man across the yard so he could see the tree up close. When the man finally was shown the tiny young tree, he laughed. He had thought she had said something about a tree that was planted when Lincoln was born. Well, when people are searching for a tree, they assume the tree is taller than they are - especially if they think it is almost 200 years old!

Yesterday we had another showing. A courteous Japanese family was thinking of buying the house. They were so courteous they didn't even take any of the cookies and water we had on the table for them. (Nobody had actually encouraged them to partake, and I think they were too polite to assume that the refreshments represented our little attempt at hospitality.) They did not seem very fluent in English; we didn't know any details of how long they had been in the country, etc., but they really liked the house, which pleased us. We are glad they felt comfortable here and we hope they liked it enough to buy it. Later that night at dinner, I remarked to Ed, "Oh, no - they didn't get to see the Lincoln oak! Oh well, they might not know who Lincoln was." To which Ed thoughtfully remarked, "At least it isn't a Truman elm."

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