The Mightiest (and Most Special) Magnolia in the World

I never knew we could love a tree so much. And certainly didn’t know we could develop such an emotional connection with our daughter via the soil below our feet. But in the last few months, we’ve been watching the trials and tribulations of one special (and tough!) magnolia in our back yard. And this afternoon, her first bloom brought us to tears.

The story goes back a few months when a storm knocked down a large cedar tree in the corner of our back yard. We wanted to replant something there, and it just so happened to be earlier this year when we started the adoption process. We quickly decided that the tree would be for “her”. We thought it would be cool for her to know it was planted for her, and for her to be able to watch it grow (as it, in turn, watched her grow). And what symbolism with us not only starting our family tree, but also planting our first tree. The significance goes on and on.

We chose a Little Gem Magnolia. In the first couple of weeks, we just loved staring out the kitchen window at this gorgeous 9-feet of god’s earth that joined our lawn. In adoption, you don’t have visible progress like a pregnancy. At times, you’re searching for evidence and connection to your child and the process at large. So in many ways, the magnolia *became* her. Sarah even surprised me one night after work with a picnic out next to her, so the three of us could eat together for the first time. Things were good.


Then our magnolia got sick. The poor thing went into transplant shock. She started losing all her leaves. Day by day, she looked worse and worse. And we were crushed. We called our neighborhood arborist who planted her, and he started coming by each week with some special organic nutrients to inject into the soil. And we even rallied around this idea that it “takes a village” of neighbors. But it didn’t really help. She was bare bones at that point.

The tree could be replaced, the guy told us. But we didn’t WANT to replace her. Not only is this a living being that would become sawdust if we removed her, she was planted for our little girl. The stories are completely parallel. Talk about symbolism. Talk about bringing home a traumatized little pumpkin from China, transplanting her into a home with strangers, and watching her hurt for a while as we nurse her back to life. This tree couldn’t have meant more to us and our current adoption journey. We wanted THIS tree to live. We owed it to this tree to give it a chance. Just like we owe it to our daughter to give it our all, even when times get rough.

So for a few weeks, we just kept watering her. And our tree guy kept coming by. And when I’d have a rough day at work, I’d walk out to the magnolia before I stepped inside… touch a leaf or two, and say a prayer that she’s not in too much pain over there.

Fast forward to today, when I’m at work… a typical Friday afternoon. Out of the blue, with no warning, I get the most beautiful text message I could have imagined, with a picture of Sarah’s hand holding a gorgeous white bloom. Her first bloom. An unexpected bloom. A sign of life.

We were both in tears.

I played hooky the rest of the afternoon today and bolted home as quickly as possible so we could celebrate. Sarah and I are beaming tonight and both so relieved that our little gems (both of them) were going to be OK. This tree means so much now. Even so much more given all the struggle.

Though to be honest, this is still one scrappy little tree. We admit it. After all the pruning, she’s lost a couple of feet on top and she’s pretty skinny and bare. But she’s OUR little scrapper. And we love her. It might take a few years to fill out, but we have nothing but time. I can’t wait for our little lotus to meet the little gem. So special.

In closing... please don’t bark at me if this blog post is too sappy.


"I am a lotus flower – delicate, fragile, yet strong... floating, unfolding, and blossoming into the life where I belong.”