I'm ready for my close-up.
That's right. Today, I'm officially a star. For those who want my autograph, I'm happy to share a leaf. But, please, only a few at a time. My fame comes from the fact that I have a particularly spectacular crown, if I do say so myself. Plus, I'm busy getting settled and need all of my energy.
But before I share my story of fame, I should probably tell you where I came from.
I was born in a beautiful nursery called Glen Flora Farms in Glen Flora, Texas. They believe growing trees is like producing a fine, quality wine, so, needless to say, I was well cared for. I was container grown and shared a wide open space with other live oaks just like myself. We had incredible views of other tree groves and valleys.
I enjoyed long, sunny days and adequate water and nutrients, but I never minded a little drought from time to time. After all, I did grow up in Texas. Over time I grew a strong, straight trunk and exhibited shiny dark green leaves, trading in box after box until I ended up in this nice 72-inch model. I have always been the subject of regular compliments - they say my branching structure is quite uniform and lovely. But my favorite compliments came from the butterflies that preferred to visit and enjoy my branches on a regular basis.
Then one day, a nice landscape architect named Dan Howse from a place called Davey Tree started inspecting me and my counterparts for "an important tree planting," he called it. His 6-foot-2-inch frame stood under my canopy and next to my trunk, while a man I knew from the nursery took pictures. This felt pretty good, I must say. I've always felt quite important in my grove here. I had grown into one of the biggest and showiest trees of the lot, so I had seniority. I was well-respected. The younger live oaks looked to me for advice and a plan for good growth.
But despite my flattery, I started to get a little bit nervous. Is this Dan Howse planning to take me somewhere far away? Will I be able to meet and mentor any other oaks? Will I still be able to wake up to see this incredible view of other tree varieties? Will someone take care of me?
As the men talk, I learn some new things about myself. I'm the official state tree of an area called Georgia. My yellowish-brown wood is hard, heavy and strong and will get darker with age, and my spreading habit will continue as I grow to impressively fill a large space and create abundant shade for people and security for birds. I'm the southern symbol of strength, and live oaks like me line the historic streets of small towns, the reclining branches creating canopies of speckled sunlight. Wow, I didn't realize there were other live oaks bigger than me.
The next morning, a Sunday, I'm taken from my grove - shaking my leaves as a quick, meaningful goodbye to my tree friends - and am placed carefully and slowly on my side on a long tractor-trailer and secured by a team of experts from Environmental Design/Davey.
Then we start a lengthy journey to a place they call New Orleans. By car, they say it takes approximately six hours to make it from my start in Texas all the way to this place in Louisiana. Since I'm a big, heavy load, we have to drive a lot slower so the voyage takes a bit longer, more than half the day.
We arrive in the afternoon, and the crew gets busy "preparing the site," they say, using machinery and tools. For me, the trip was a long one, so I rest. Looking around, I can see there are live oaks just like me but massive in size. I'm amazed. I wonder if I can learn anything from these trees.
The next day, I'm being taken into a school yard, and there is great excitement all around me. Faces brighten when they see me. They say they are impressed with me. I can't help but feel proud. I didn't become one of the biggest trees in my grove without great confidence.
With their equipment and then strong hands, the crew places me carefully and gently in a hole and secures my roots in the earth. Camera crews document the entire process. Luckily, I'm a strong, healthy tree and don't have a bad side. (But when appearing on national television, one still can't help but get a little nervous, even if you're an impressive oak like me.) That's right, I said national television. I'm surprising a famous woman who they say is a dear friend of trees like me. She has a large live oak of her own in California that she enjoys reading under. They call her "Oprah," and the way they talk about her passion for my kind, I'm instantly proud to be here for her.
Soon I was tucked in and watered, and then the crew cleaned up the site around me. I stretched my roots out a bit trying to get familiar with this soil, reaching for the edges of my box when I realize there are no boundaries here. As I adapt to this new space, I come to understand I can plant my roots firmly in this place, and will likely not make an adventure again like the one I just made.
Almost before I can take in this new bit of knowledge, children from the building here where I'm planted - the KIPP Believe School - are sitting beneath my shade. They are reading and asking questions and their teachers are talking about me. The children are beaming with curiosity and life.
And, just like that - in the merest of instances - I feel something I hadn't felt before in a place I didn't know before. I am in a warm and comfortable spot, somewhere I can spread my branches and grow, a place where children can admire me and enjoy my cool comfort. It's a new sort of place for me. I am … wanted. I am … needed. This school, these children and this community - they are my home.