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Helicopters for Sale!

By Carissa Tobin

FRI MAY 21, 2021

When I was eight, I collected hundreds of little green helicopter seeds that fell from the neighbor's maple tree onto our driveway. I put them in a glass jar and made a sign. "Seeds for Sale: 50 cents!"

That's right. Did your jaw drop? Only fifty cents. What a deal, right? From one single glass jar, you could grow fifty, maybe a hundred trees! Why no one ever took me up on the bargain of the century, I never understood. There is a picture of me standing in the driveway with my jar, beaming and hopeful, perhaps waiting for passersby to stop and take advantage of this steal. In case you're wondering, selling helicopter seeds was only one of my youthful entrepreneurial endeavors. I also set up a pet-sitting business and sold custom-made friendship bracelets; this last one being the only one that ever had any customers.

Years later, it is spring at our new house. The first spring we've had here. I wander outside to check for Creeping Charlie - I spent probably twenty hours last summer pulling it by hand in our small front yard. After I started, I realized this was a never-ending project, but the Creeping Charlie had its tentacles in me, and I just couldn't stop.

An afternoon's worth of Creeping Charlie, last summer.
An afternoon's worth of Creeping Charlie, last summer.

I find close to none in our front yard this year, but I'm watching you, Charlie. I do find some creeping in on my neighbor's side of the fence, and he has given me free rein to go over and pull it. I grab it at the roots. It keeps coming and coming. All of the curly dark green leaves I've seen scattered about are attached to the same root system. I sigh with satisfaction. You see why pulling this stuff is addictive.

In the backyard, I find one Creeping Charlie, its roots deep and thick. If they all have roots like this, we are in trouble.

In the rose garden, there are several little green sprouts along with the zillions of dried helicopters from last fall. "These are little maple trees," I say to Little L, as I begin pulling them. I'm pleasantly surprised when she doesn't ask if we can keep them.

Then I notice a few of these errant newbie trees in the grass, and then growing in the mulch under last year's dead bushes.

Those helicopters are growing into trees!
Those helicopters are growing into trees!

And then it hits me: they're everywhere. Axel looks out the kitchen window at the place where some flowers were planted last summer when we moved in. We had thought they were just annuals - the ones that come just once, right? I can never get the categories straight. Annual like año, year - comes once a year, or comes for just one year?

"Nope," I say. "Those aren't flowers. They're more of those little maple trees."

"What's the deal with those things?" Axel asks, eyeing the side lawn through the window.

"They come from those little helicopters," I tell him, and then regale him with my brilliant business idea from my childhood. If Little L overhears, I realize later, she's going to start asking me for jars - or maybe she'll learn from my failed attempts what it is that people really want: not helicopter seeds.

This is one half of one percent of the tiny maple trees growing in our small yard.
This is one half of one percent of the tiny maple trees growing in our small yard.

This is our first spring as house owners. "Do you want me to get you some seeds?" my mother-in-law asked, passing along a catalog from which I promptly picked ten varieties. "I'm starting you a tomato plant," my mom told me. "And pea pods. And I have some pumpkin seedlings you could have too."

Our seedlings have flourished in Axel's cloffice, which has also become known as Papa's Conservatory. He waters and tends to the plants on the days Little L and I forget.

But he's started asking where they're going to go outside. We don't have a vegetable garden. Everything I chose can be grown in pots, but we don't have those yet either. Not to mention that Axel is increasingly stressed by the thatching in the grass, so much so that he bought a book on yard maintenance and sent me and Little L to Ace Hardware for curbside pickup for a thatching rake. When I texted my father-in-law to ask if he had a new one, hoping not to accumulate even more tools, his response was "never heard of that." My mom lent us a dandelion remover that Axel can't get enough of.

And just when we finally got all those tiny maple trees - now putting down roots - pulled out of the grass and the mulch, we looked outside this morning to see bright green helicopter seeds all over the yard.

Those things really are a dime a dozen, I think. Or fifty cents a jar, so the saying should go.

But I stand by my prior point: think of all the trees you could have! You could grow whole forests with just a handful of these things. They really are amazing.

If you agree with me, I've gathered a bunch of these helicopters and conveniently placed them in a yard waste bag out back. Feel free to help yourself, and you can just send me the fifty cents by PayPal or Zelle or VenMo or check or money order.

I've even thrown in a bit of Creeping Charlie to sweeten the deal.