When I was a wee little, my mom and grandparents bought me a tree. The tree was ordered from a catalogue and arrived in all the glory a twig could have. There was some dispute if the tree was even alive. They carefully followed the directions though and planted a Colorado Blue Spruce twig in hopes that one day my tree would be a magnificent sign of life.
It did survive and slowly over the years grew little bits at a time. When this photo was taken, it was probably the last year that I could say that I was taller than my little tree. Much like many childhood dogs, my tree became that figure that began sneaking into family pictures. “Mel, you’ve lost your first tooth! Come have your picture taken in front of the tree.” “Mel, it’s your first day of school. Come have your picture taken in front of the tree.” “Mel, you got straight A’s. Let’s take your picture in front of the tree.” You laugh, but I’m sure my grandparents can provide a time line collage of my life with that tree. Junior and senior prom, with the tree. Graduation, with the tree. My tree shared some of the greatest milestones of my life with me. My tree taught me to love trees. This just wasn’t a tree, it was a gift. It wasn’t a thing, it was alive and breathing. It was the same age I was. The tree probably could recite off every year that something monumental happened in my life if it could talk.
There is one benefit to the family dog over the family tree. That is when your grandparents sell their property about twenty years later, a dog could pack up and go. A Colorado Blue Spruce on the other hand has spent twenty years firmly planting itself to that special place chosen for it. When it was just a stick and looked like it had already seen the light, it wasn’t even a thought that one day my grandparents wouldn’t own where that tree rests its feet.
Every time I drive by, I look over and see my tree in what use to be my grandparents yard. Their property wasn’t only a home, but a family business. The motel passed through several hands over the years and finally came to a time where it sat vacant. The landscape that my grandparents tended to meticulously grew out of hand, but you could still see that spruce growing proudly by the office end of the building.
Last May, I had almost two weeks off from work. I had taken this time to go to Ireland with one of my best friends, but due to a great deal of inner turmoil I didn’t go. (Reference here) It was a few days into my vacation that my mother called me. I can’t say for sure that she was crying, but she was at least on the brink of it. Someone had recently bought my grandparents motel and had been doing work around the property. You could tell that the new owners had the intention of opening the business back up. There had been painting and grass mowing. They had began working on the bushes and the trees. They had taken down several boxwoods, which my mom had expected. The boxwoods were old and dying. She scanned the property as she continued to pass it. That’s when she saw that the spruce was gone. The new owners had took my thirty two year old tree down.
I was in such a state of shock that I couldn’t even express emotion on the phone. How in the hell could they have just decided that a completely healthy twenty foot tall tree needed to be whacked down? I felt a rush of guilt that I never could find a way to move a tree of that size. I should have called David Copperfield or perhaps Criss Angel? Magic, magic was the only way and I never looked into it. I wasn’t there strapping myself to the trunk of the tree, screaming to the top of my lungs that anyone with a chainsaw was going to have to kill me first before they took out my tree. I should have at least been there, like when you put your dog down. You should be there to comfort that family member during its last moments.
I paced around the house trying to process all these thoughts running through my head. I couldn’t think clearly. I was about to cross over to that point where friends would say is not a safe place. I was about to go crazy.
“Son of a bitch!”
It hit me. I was going to drive down to the motel. A full thirty minutes away but I was going to go and get what pieces of the tree I could. I’m sure I could find someone to at least carve nice little decorations so everyone could have a piece of the spruce. It was the only thing I could think to do. I was going and no one could stop me. I headed to my dresser and pulled out my new 9 mm Luger. I studied the gun case and wondered if that would be too much. Maybe so. I grabbed my baseball bat instead and got into my Blazer.
I drove like a mad woman to the motel. Who the hell a. kills my tree and b. makes my mother cry? Someone who is going to have their ass whipped, that’s who. I tore down the gravel driveway and skidded to a halt in front of the hotel. A man with a paintbrush paused his work to see what the hell was going on.
I got out of my car with my red hair looking particularly crazy, wearing my t-shirt that says I’m that bad thing that happens to good people. And today, I was surely that bad thing.
“I need to talk to someone that is in charge.”
As I approached the man, I could see his flight or fight instincts kicking in. I could see my reflection in his eyes that were now glossing over. And let me tell you, I looked like a scary bitch in his eyes.
“You can talk to me.”
At this point another man peaks his head out of one of the rooms. My shrill voice was obviously penetrating the walls.
“I need to know where the hell the Colorado Blue Spruce went?”
Blank stares. I was going to have to be more specific.
“The Colorado Blue Spruce, that twenty foot tall monster that was right there!” I swung around to point, planning on where my speech of terror was going to go now, only to realize that my Colorado Blue Spruce was standing right there. Right where I was pointing. “It’s there. My tree is still there.”
“Yeah, we just trimmed the branches off the bottom so it’s even with the other trees.”
I wasn’t sure if I should laugh, cry or run before they called the cops. When they trimmed off the bottom limbs to even it with the other surrounding trees it made it almost invisible from the highway. Get yourself together, Mel. The tree is alive, but you have to ensure its survival. “Are you planning on cutting that tree down?”
I sighed with relief. “Thank God. Look, I’m not crazy.”
The men once again returned to that blank stare.
“Okay, I am crazy. I have a reason why I was upset though. My grandparents owned this motel when I was a baby. My family planted that tree for me when I was less than a year old. That tree has celebrated all my life’s greatest moments. And when my mother called me and said it had been cut down… well… it obviously made me act like a lunatic.”
The men nodded in agreement.
“Sorry, I’m going to go now. The tree is staying, yes?”
“That tree is staying.”
“Thank you for your time.”
I pulled out of the driveway and I’m sure the men went off to change their underwear. I called my mom’s house. My stepfather answered the phone.
“She’s outside. She’s quite upset.”
“That’s why I’m calling. The tree is still there! I just went down to the motel.”
“Oh, good! I’ll go tell her!”
“No! Don’t steal my glory! Don’t you tell her!”
Months later, my mom stopped by the motel to get a look at the nearly finished project. A woman greeted her and mom explained to her tie to the hotel. The woman, who said she would be the motel manager, offered to show mom around. Mom accepted the offer and followed her in and out of the remodeled guest rooms before heading up to the office.
A man doing handyman work stopped what he was doing and studied my mother. He must have recognized the resemblance.
“Your daughter! She came down a while back going on about that tree. She’s crazy.”
My mother then explained to the new manager why there were rumors about me needing a straitjacket. She told the story of that little tree and why it is so important to us.
The new manager smiled and warmly said, “Now that I know the story, that tree is now important to me, too. I won’t let them do anything to that tree. That tree will stay.”
I still look over at that tree when I ever go by. I’m so glad it still stands and represents my life. Being little and nothing but a twig, first teeth, first school days, last school days, and a crazy day I came flying down that driveway looking for revenge.