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A Tree Dies in Suburbia: A Sappy Tale

To cut or not to cut? That was the dilemma we faced more than 23 years ago when we moved in to our little house. The intended victim was the lone tree on our property, a Norway maple that had seen better days, its roots choking the life out of the poor grass that passed for our front lawn. We debated the tree’s fate for quite some time. Pros? Shade, privacy. Cons? Roots choking the life out of the front lawn; tree roots making it impossible to widen the driveway; falling leaves. My son declared it a bitch to mow around. (I think that was one of the reasons he moved out.)

At the urging of my aunt, who thought it wrong to destroy something living, we decided to leave the tree. We hired a landscaper to prune it, trim some of the roots, and re-sod the lawn. The tree began to flourish and we were glad we had spared it. That tree would soon become a part of my family’s history.

Our tree saw all our family’s milestones. All the “firsts” were recorded for posterity in front of it. First day of nursery school, first day of camp, kindergarten, and so on. New puppy, bar and bat mitzvah pics, prom pictures, high school and college graduations. The kids grew taller and older; the tree stayed the same. It was often the backdrop for our holiday cards. It provided shade and privacy. It provided leaves for projects. It also provided “pig-noses” and little green buds that got tracked all over the carpet. But, in a development with streets named Spruce, Pine, and Oak, it was only fitting that we had our 50-year-old maple.

This winter we had a storm that dumped wet, heavy snow on everything. I was in the house when I suddenly heard a muffled “whump” from outside. I looked out and was horrified to see that a huge branch had fallen from the weight of the snow and landed on my SUV. No damage was done to the snow-blanketed car but over the next couple of days the tree continued to divest itself of more huge limbs. I called the landscaper to cart away all the dead wood.

We were unprepared for the bad news he delivered — a disease had infiltrated the tree and it was dying. Nothing could save it. It needed to be cut down right away before someone got hurt. We were dumbfounded. How could we lose our beloved tree? It had seen so much of our lives. Without it we would be exposed. Without it the lawn would stand empty. Without it we would be $500 poorer because the tree guy concurred that it must come down as soon as possible.

I am crying as I write this. The tree will be cut down in another week. I don’t know if I can bear to watch. It may sound stupid, but the demise of the tree spells the end of an era for my family. I will miss my old Norway maple. The roots of my family will forever be entwined with its roots. You served us well, sweet tree. Rest in pieces.

(Photographs provided by the Writer herself, Carol Nissenbaum, who will probably get teary with the proof of not only a tree gone, but years gone by.)

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