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Back in 2007 I was looking out in the woods behind our house. It was spring time and the leaves were just starting to pop out. Being comprised primarily of maple trees and a lot of underbrush, it wouldn’t be long before the leaves and other greenery would fill up the woods. The season wasn’t quite there yet when I gazed in the woods so that’s when I had the opportunity to spot the little evergreen tree.

Obviously spawned by the evergreens several hundred feet farther back into the woods, this little guy had found himself in the thick of the maple trees and the greenery. He wasn’t quite “Charlie Brown” material, but it was obvious that he was struggling with holding his own during the summer months. I sensed that given the right amount of light and TLC, he could thrive and be a big strong tree. At the time he was about two feet tall.

I dug a hole in the middle of our yard near the garage. It was a nice deep hole with plenty of room for the roots that I knew would come along with the tree. I had never transplanted a tree before, but I hiked across the little creek the runs behind the house and dug in a big circle around this little guy. I gathered up as much of his native dirt that I could, tried to keep all his roots intact and after crossing the creek with him in tow, I planted him in the newly dug hole in our yard. For several weeks I watered him regularly until I was sure that he was holding his own. That first Christmas in his new home, I decorated him with a set of miniature Christmas lights. There were only 50 lights on that set but it was plenty.

The next year he was taller and we upgraded to 100 lights.

The third year it was obvious that he had grown some more and we added more lights to accommodate. I didn’t really pay much attention to the fact that we were decorating the tree every year, after all he is an evergreen tree and when we decorate outside for the holidays, we decorate the evergreen tree. But that was the year that Earl was stopped by one of our neighbors. It’s rare that we speak to the neighbors, we’re not in that type of neighborhood really, but she stopped Earl to let him know how much her family loved that we were decorating that tree each year. Looking out their back patio door, they had a perfect view of the ever growing evergreen, and seeing lights out their back window carried the intended Christmas spirit into their home. It’s good to share the spirit that way.

A couple of years ago I let Earl know that we would need to buy more lights for the evergreen tree. He’s been thriving over the past 18 months and we just didn’t have enough lights to do him justice for the season. We purchased two new big spools of lights and last Sunday I decorated what has become my favorite evergreen tree on the property. He’s over eight feet tall now and he’s doing wonderfully. This evening, when we pulled into the driveway after a most excellent gathering with some dear friends, a flash of motion caught my eye as I saw the neighbor looking out her patio window at our tree.

Our little evergreen is growing more beautiful and stronger every year, and apparently he continues to delight all during the holiday season.





I think I have a better average memory. I have a hunch that I inherited this from my father, as a retailer, he could tell a customer that he hadn’t seen in 10 years that they had purchased a pound of 10-common nails a decade earlier. He had the entire inventory of the family business in his head.

While my memory kind of works like my dad’s, I don’t know that I remember the same things that he does. I got to thinking about my memory this morning while I was taking a shower and I decided that I am a very visual person. I have to see something to remember it. Writing it down and/or reading something helps me remember it better. Lately, when I’m told something, I don’t remember it that well. I don’t think this is unusual in any way.

The problem with my memory is that I remember dumb things. For example, in one of the applications I have written, I “salt” a user’s password by adding insignificant characters to it. This makes the password harder to decrypt. That’s good. The “salt” used is the SKU for a candy bar from Ames, followed by a dash, followed by the department # for a greeting card at Hills, followed by a colon, followed by the name of the department store on Arsenal Street in Watertown, New York before it was called Jamesway. I think the fact that I can remember all of these things several decades later makes me some sort of freak.

The good thing about having a good memory is that I remember lots of happy things and recalling happy moments makes me smile, even if I’m having a bad day. The bad thing about having a good memory is that I can also remember things that made me not-so-happy. These events, at key moments in my life, linger on later in life and probably contributed to a few of my idiosyncrasies. For example, I remember being told that I had to leave my fourth grade classroom for a new school program called “Enrichment”. It would be an exciting new program for all involved and I would be going twice a week. As a young lad that already felt different because of my gay wiring and all, it was kind of devastating to me that I had to leave the classroom, because I was the only one in the entire class that had been selected for this new program. All eyes were on me as I made my way from room 202 to room 210 (more random numbers I can remember). This reinforced a feeling of being different. Luckily the Enrichment teacher had a student teacher accompanying him that I found wicked dreamy so that made everything a little more manageable. In fifth grade, I remember being told that “I was a damn fool” by the teacher (ex-military from Yonkers) when I tried to leap off my chair like a superhero. I didn’t get hurt, no one got hurt, but she was cranky and somehow I filed away that taking risks could result in people with horrid accents yelling at you. She called quite a few students a “damn fool”. I don’t think she’s teaching anymore.

I’d be such a hoot in therapy.

While my memory is mostly visual, there’s a good helping of muscle memory in there too. All of my icons on my smartphone, whether it’s an iPhone or an Android device, have to be in the same place. I remember phone numbers by rapping my fingers on a flat service as if I was dialing a phone. I do the same with credit card numbers and the like.

As I mentioned before, I have a lot of junk in my head. Not only do I remember the license plate number of my Dad’s ’71 Heavy Chevy, I also remember the license plate numbers of that era of my grandparent’s car, my aunt and uncle’s car and my godparents’ car. Those old plates have been gone for at least 30 years but I still remember 819 OST. Useless fact.

I’m counting on the combination of muscle memory and visual memory being an asset as I become a pilot. I’m paying very close attention to what I’m learning and trying to do things the same way so that it becomes intuitive. If I’m ever in an emergency situation, it’ll be calming techniques and instinctive recall that will help get the plane to safety, so I guess when it all comes down to it, I’m blessed with having this sort of memory.

Image randomly selected from the Brain Excel website.