My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Requiem for a Tree

Okay, I know a tree isn't exactly a member of the family... but trees are such wonderful metaphors for so many aspects of life -- and the episode I'm posting about is so odd -- that I just had to write this. Besides, it sorta matches my mood. (No, nobody's died. We've had some frakkin' scary episodes the past couple of months, but we're all still here.)

When I moved into my house, there was minimal landscaping that included a nice (albeit smallish) tree growing in the little "outcropping" in front of my house that divided the parking area & hosted the block's communal mailbox.  Over the years, the tree grew, and proceeded to do a fine job of decorating the view out the front windows of my house as well as serving many other useful purposes.

Each spring, Tree added a crown of bright, colorful flowers to the neighborhood.

Over the years, Tree provided shelter to several generations of robins, whose nest was located in the highest split of the main trunk, and whose (hatched) eggshells I learned to look for on the ground once I heard the chicks calling for food.

Tree served as both yardstick and support for the occasional mountain of snow I had to build.

And as the years passed, Tree provided innumerable photo ops regardless of season or time of day.

All along, as the branches spread and canopy grew thicker, Tree provided me an increasingly effective umbrella when I got in & out of my car. Of course, nothing in life is all good (or all bad). As Tree grew, I became resigned to having its pollen turn my car yellow each spring (sometimes for weeks), and from late summer until after the first frost having my car covered in a combination of overripe, squishy berries and (seemingly tons of) poop from the birds that ate the berries.

A couple of winters ago, Tree gave me my first real reason for concern, when I awoke after a particularly wet & heavy snowfall:

All I could think of (as I used my old-fashioned hand saw to clear the sidewalk as required, despite it being my first day out of bed after being sick for a week) was, "what would have happened if this had been the side of the tree over my parking spot?!"  Luckily, life with Tree quickly returned to normal (minus the robins), and I re-resigned myself to either cleaning my vehicle more often or parking farther down the block in my other assigned spot. Meanwhile, Tree kept growing, and made it through both the now-infamous "Derecho" storm and an EF0 tornado unscathed. There were even fresh (hatched) robins' eggs at its base late this spring.

Fast-forward to November 15th of this year. I'd had a particularly difficult night and gotten home very late, then gone to sleep even later... only to be awakened at 7:20am by repeated ringing of my doorbell and knocking on my front door. Bleary-eyed and wearing only sweatpants, I stumbled downstairs and opened the door to find a man wearing a safety vest and hard hat who asked me to please move my car because "We're here to take down the tree."

We apologized to each other -- me for my loud, impolite "YOU'RE WHAT!?!?" and him for waking me -- and after reassuring me that "they'll put in a new tree soon," the guy set off to alert my next-door neighbor that his Mercedes was also in the line of fire. No advance warning, no announcement... the HOA had made a decision and that was that.

The combination of chainsaws, industrial-size wood chipper, and shouted communications between the two workmen was too loud for me to go back to bed so I watched from an upstairs window as, one bough at a time, Tree was converted into a Frankenstein-like imitation of a maypole, pulled down, and sliced into chunks that were noisily digested by the chipper parked across the street.

When all was said and done, the front of my house looked... well, lonely.

I was just beginning to wonder how long I would have to wait when, around 8:00am on November 19th I was awakened by a lot of banging & shouting out in front of my house. No "Can you please move your car, sir?" or "Hi, we're going to be doing some work directly in front of your house," or any other such warning. (My HOA is, if anything, consistent.) Looking out my front window I saw a large-ish truck with an even larger trailer carrying a work crew, some landscaping equipment, and... is that a tree...?

Luckily I had no plans to go anywhere, because the truck blocked my parking spot for a couple of hours while the crew noisily dug (and scraped, hacked, and even chopped with an old-fashioned axe!) until they had the old tree's stump removed and had a large enough hole for the new tree.

I have to admit that I was not terribly impressed. The tree was (is) spindly, and is actually a little smaller than the original tree had been when I first moved into my house. It had exactly four leaves, and every single one had dropped off by the time the crew left. The hole and the root ball were smaller than they should have been... I can go on, but the bottom line is there's a new, immature, possibly endangered and very, very bare new tree out in front of my house...

...and I'm really sorry my old friend, adversary and photo subject is gone. Goodbye, Tree... May your seedlings continue to sprout in unplanned spots, and may your mulch nourish many a yard and park.

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