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A Neighborhood Holiday Tree

May 5, 2018

I live in Chicago now, but spent many years in Cooperstown, a beautiful little village in upstate New York. On a well-traveled road along a field just out of town, something wonderful happened. And then didn’t.

There is a ditch at the edge of the road where many weeds and some “volunteer” trees grow, untended and unnoticed by travelers and neighbors--until one December, when a Christmas ornament appeared on a branch of a scrubby little fir tree growing out of the ditch. Every few days as I walked my dogs past the tree, I noticed another ornament, and then another, so I brought some tinsel rope on my next walk and draped it around the silver star, little wooden sled and shiny red balls. This is a very small town, but I never saw anyone else decorating the tree, and no one ever mentioned seeing me. At some point after Christmas, the decorations all disappeared quietly--until the first one reappeared quietly early the next December.

This went on year after year. I suspect more neighbors were joining in because the number of ornaments kept increasing. (Not the quality, though--these were from the bottom of the box, the B team, the ones with a chipped plastic Santa face or the reindeer missing an antler, expendable ornaments that we could hang outside without knowing exactly what might happen to them.) As I watched our fir tree grow higher and higher above its ditch, I saw it as a community mascot and enjoyed its mystery.

Here is what I found out later: A neighbor was concerned about the next tree over in the ditch--a much taller, very dead that was tree threatening to fall over at any time--and called the village offices to send a crew to cut it down.

Yes. The crew cut down our fir. It wasn’t December, so our tree didn’t look particularly special. But it was certainly not dead. So that’s another mystery--what were they thinking? The dead one is still there. Aaargh.  

Photo of a small pine tree with some holiday ornaments on it

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