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Keys and Trees

November 5, 2011

Aside from my love of shoes and the giant collection I’ve amassed, the two things I keep in my life to remind me of my grandmother are  a war amps key tag and a japanese maple.

My grandfather was a World War II vet, and I’m pretty sure that’s not why the one charity my grandmother gives to annually is the War Amps.  My grandmother is kind and generous with family and friends, but kindness through charitable giving isn’t part of who she is.  I imagine it’s because she grew up during the depression and many of the frugal habits she acquired during these lean years remain until this day.

Her annual contribution to War Amps is simply practical.  When you support this charity you are sent a key tag to put on your key chain, and if you happen to lose your keys, the finder can drop them into any mailbox and War Amps will then mail them back to you.  I distinctly recall two times when my grandmother lost her keys when she was out and about, as she was prone to frequently do, and they were returned to her.

I have yet to lose or misplace my keys in my adult life.   But when War Amps asked me for money I couldn’t help but want to get one of those key tags, too.

My gran also was an avid gardener when she had a yard or balcony at her disposal.  I came to discover gardening later in life, and while it is still really an exercise in trial and error, I love to dabble in the soil as well.  We have four gardens which flank each side of our house which notably include a large perennial garden that encompasses the entire front lawn and a veggie and herb garden that runs the length of one side of our house.

One of the first plants I coveted as a new gardener was a japanese maple.  A red one with lacy leaves.  The Inaba Shidare.  They’re horribly expensive and I wasn’t willing to fork over a couple of hundred dollars for a wee tree no matter how decadent and pretty it was.

One summer I went to visit my gran and as I pulled up in front of her house, I noticed a new addition to her garden.  She had somehow got her hands on a very young japanese maple and was nursing this tree along.  Being that my gran is cheaper than I am, (see the aforementioned great depression reference), I was quite surprised to see this plant in her garden.  She let me in on her little secret that she had picked it up at the end of the previous gardening season for $25.

I spent the rest of that summer looking for my deal.  It didn’t turn up until the following spring, and while it wasn’t quite as sweet of a deal as my gran’s, I was still compelled to bring the tree home to my garden.

I look forward to watching its leaves unfurl each spring and I anticipate the leaves turning bright red each fall.  There’s nothing more stunning than the glory of a japanese maple set on fire in the waning fall light.  I do tend to ignore it during the summer months as it doesn’t keep the deep red colour as we planted it in the wrong spot.

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