A quiet moment of light allows the writing to bloom again after days rendered dormant in the shade of hectic. It has been a crazy week full of finales and firsts, bests and bruises, teaching and learning, training and competing, celebrating and supporting. Thankfully the busy eased into beauty and the manic subsided into memories preserved for a lifetime. While these milestone moments were transpiring quietly among my own family and friends, national headlines reported the achievements of a trio from my hometown.
I am sure most are attuned to hearing the name of their native city in the news and that innate hypersensitivity can erroneously amplify the frequency or quality of happenings. For Saginaw, this effect is often associated with negative news of violence, segregation and poverty yielding an unpleasant and unfair nickname, dismissive of all the good that has occurred and is emerging in and of the area. This week, however, residents past and present of the mid-Michigan town that was home to my first 18 years, can have confidence and pride in three fellow natives.
Though hers was a short stay, the 2015 French Open (and 20 time Grand Slam) Champion, Serena Williams was indeed born in Saginaw and her great-aunt still resides two houses down from my mom (unfortunately those tennis roots didn’t extend to our yard!)
Brian d’Arcy James called Saginaw home through high school where he was cast in the first, of what would become many, starring roles, playing “Joseph” in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Nouvel Catholic Central High School. June 7, 2015 marked his third Tony Award nomination, a culmination of his staggering Broadway, TV and recording credentials.
Nearest and dearest for his time at Michigan State prior to playing for the Golden State Warriors, is Draymond Green, former Saginaw High School basketball star now playing a key role for his team in the NBA Finals. His is a story of hard work and dedication, rising up through the ranks and persevering when many doubted his potential. He continues to give back to the town of his youth, demonstrating the strength of his roots and providing tangible evidence of that which can be grown in Saginaw.
While these are three prominent stories deserving of recognition for the individuals and their shared city of origin, there are many more – big and small – that speak to the greatness of the city of Saginaw. Visiting the downtown, the dedication to rebuilding through home restoration, Farmer’s Market presence, new restaurants and establishment of an ever-stronger medical community is apparent. The art scene has consistently evolved with opportunities in music, theatre and poetry. Graduates of the various high schools in Saginaw County are making an impact in medicine, business, politics, education, arts and athletics – locally, nationally and internationally.
With utmost gratitude, I recognize the opportunities of my youth as the fertile soil allowing my interests to take root and blossom into the professional and personal successes of my adult life. From my time in Saginaw public and parochial schools, the youth symphony programs, training at the Saginaw YMCA, working at the Children’s Zoo, running countless miles up and down State Street and even debating the glory of Spatz vs Napolitano bread for the best toast (I [yes, the minority I know] support the latter…if I went back to bread, it would be for Tony’s Italian Toast), I have deep appreciation for all that I had in my childhood and for all that makes Saginawesome.
Immediately following my previous post, now many days past, I was met with another brother challenge. In response to my prose stating the fruit renews the orchard, he shared concern that apples do not reproduce from seed. Subsequent investigation revealed we each held an element of truth in our assertions. Certainly apples can grow from seed, as they have survived in the wild for ages before humankind became involved. However, most successful apple propagation occurs through grafting. My initial satisfaction that we could both claim accuracy was rapidly replaced with intrigue. As I learned more, it became clear that the lessons from apples applied not only to my own offspring, but also to my siblings and hometown compatriots.
It seems apples grown from seed are extreme heterozygotes – they have an enormous variety of DNA (nearly twice the amount of humans) and resultantly are often significantly different from their parents. Apples can also form mutations on a single branch, which often result in an improved strain of the parent – it is this concept that I carry over from my original post, recognizing that in sharing traits through our offspring, the original is improved, which I see evidenced in the proud moment of shared PRs at this Friday’s 5K:
42:02 for middlest, 28:08 for biggest and 19:41 for me!
Most certainly, however, I also recognize, appreciate and celebrate the diversity of their interests, talents and tendencies. From littlest and her social ease, middlest and his natural talent for entertaining and biggest displaying confidence in leadership – they are unique from us as parents and each other as siblings, certainly renewing the orchard through their diversity.
Supporting my brother’s initial query, however, it is true that if a particular type of apple, specific season or expedited growth is desired, grafting is used. By attaching scion (a piece of a previous year’s bud-containing growth) to established rootstock, directed growth with higher yield of quality fruit is obtained. This can be seen as the partnership of parents is established in the foundation of extended family and developed through various community experiences, resulting in unique descendants. In much the same way, through the grafting of one or more bud containing branches (family support, educational opportunity, athletic experience, arts exposure, mentorship) to the strong rootstock of Saginaw, exceptional and plentiful bounty is produced.
With gratitude for my own experience, appreciation for the accomplishments of those who share my city of origin on all levels of the fame spectrum and hope that hometown roots will continue to be nurtured. May we graft the best of ourselves to the strength of our roots and yield an outstanding next generation.