I found a maple seed in the parking lot of my apartment complex. It’s an odd-looking seed, a green bulb that encases the seed itself and a paper-thin leaf protruding from one side. They come in pairs—attached at the bulb—when they grow on the tree and often when they fall on the ground. Spotting that little, green seed on the ground shook loose a memory that’d been sitting on my mental shelf for damn near fifteen years. The memory was of my mother’s father, in a Massachusetts town far away from where I am now.
My grandparents’ lawn was always green. The grass well-manicured by my grandfather, who split his retirement between watching his grandchildren and puttering about the yard. He’d even putter during family cookouts. Not so much to clean up the yard, but more to take care of little things here and there. To man the grill, to distribute the Hoodie ice creams after dinner, to take his turn watching the kids in the pool, to picking up the maple seeds he found dotting the backyard.
It sounds weird for my grandfather to have picked up the maple seeds. But he did it for his grandchildren. There was always a twinkle in his eyes when he’d walk over with the seeds in his hand. Some would be bright green, others a crispy brown.
Then he’d show us how to split the bulb around the seed in half before pinching the stiff halves on either side of our noses. The stickiness of the seed would keep them there for a few seconds if we stayed still. Less if we moved our heads. Grandpa would put one on his nose, too. That mischievous twinkle never leaving his eyes.
I’d all but forgotten the maple seeds. But the brain is a funny organ that can dig up old memories with the simplest of triggers.
I haven’t seen my grandfather in a few years. Now he lives in Florida with my grandmother. They moved there after leaving Massachusetts in a motor home and travelling the country. It was far away from family, but they decided that setting down roots near Disney World would give their children and grandchildren added incentive to visit.
The last time I visited my grandparents, Mom and I stayed with them while visiting Disney. Their house was different than the one in Massachusetts, though many of the same pictures hung on the walls. Grandpa was a bit different from those summer cookouts, too. Older, grayer. But his mischievous twinkle was still there. And I think if there’d been maple seeds in the middle of Florida, I bet he would’ve convinced me to put one on my nose.