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The Gifts We Give

Cliif and Jack in front of paulownia tree

We spent the 4th of July weekend at Solomons Island on the Chesapeake Bay. It was our first visit in ten years after spending more than ten Independence Day celebrations there with our children.  Solomons and the 4th of July are part of their collective memory of family fun with our family friends, Jack and Mary Wills.

The big old farm house with its great porch and lovely view of the Chesapeake has been in Mary’s family for many years. As we first drove up the gravel driveway, one of the first things that caught my eye was the big, beautiful paulownia tree which has shown signs of age as it has expanded and tilts slightly with its roots exposed. As I stood and viewed the tree, it became a metaphor for my friendship with Jack, a friendship spanning 52 years. Jack and I met in college and were pledge brothers in Delta Tau Delta. Jack held tenure as social chair and I was president in my senior year.  After we received our bachelor’s degrees, I stayed at the university for a master’s degree and Jack went to law school at SMU in Dallas and then to the Thunderbird Institute in Arizona to study international business. He then moved to DC where he met Mary, who introduced him to Solomons and his love of the bay.

Flash forward ten years and I moved to DC to work at Northern Virginia Community College and renewed my friendship with Jack. This was in 1976 and the friendship has been constant. Jack and I may both have roots in Texas but it is that paulownia tree in Maryland’s Eastern Shore that symbolizes our lifelong friendship. As I viewed the picture of Jack and me beside that tree, I also remember the saying I have framed beside pictures of my children. This is the saying:

There are two gifts we should give our children; one is roots, and the other is wings.

At RCC, this is also a gift we give our students. We want them to remember and value their time with us, and I personally hope they find friendships they will always carry with them. But we also want them to have wings, wings to soar and to reach their full potential.

I smiled when I read what the World Paulownia Institute says about these trees. Perhaps this instruction should be given to all adults when they think about becoming a parent. This instruction is also what we at RCC want to keep in mind as we assist, educate and nurture our students.

The World Paulownia Institute states, “Grower Beware: Paulownia is not a plant it and forget it tree.  All Paulownia Plantations require critical care and management. Paulownia Plantations that are not cared for properly FAIL.  The cost to maintain a Paulownia Plantation is substantial; if you are not prepared to follow explicit growing requirements and fund the annual costs associated DON’T PLANT.”


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