Written by Jessica Reid
Over 60 years ago my grandfather called the Town of Greenwich and asked that a tree be planted in the front yard of his home on Sheephill Road. Only five or so years prior to the Red Maple being planted, he had purchased the property from a neighbor, Rocky Santoro, and built his home, the same house where I live now with my family. Tropical Storm Isaias sadly and somewhat surprisingly snapped this tree, closing off Sheephill Road.
Miraculously, the tree did not hit our house. It landed in between, rather than on, our neighbor’s car and another neighbor’s mailbox. The tree did end up leaning on the power lines but not affecting our power. Dare I say, it was actually nice to have the tree block our busy street and offer us a cul de sac experience if only for a few days.
In an effort to make some lemonade from the Isaias lemons, two days after the tree came down, a few family members (most without power) came over to gather outdoors and observe the traffic and turnarounds in front of our house. We debated the name of this new game. Should we call it “Sheephill Nascar”, “Who can drive fastest towards the downed tree”, “Who will turn around the slowest”? A Winnebago driver took the cake with a 15+ point turn. We started holding up signs encouraging folks to “Honk” – most cars obliged and received a rousing round of applause and excited yells from our crew.
We couldn’t have planned the gathering any better, as right after we supplied pizza to everyone, the real entertainment began when the Town’s Tree cutting department rolled up with more than 5 vehicles and over a dozen men. It quickly became a “Tree Cutting” party and our cheers and gratitude were redirected to all of the folks that came to help.
My mom teared up, as with everything related to this house, the tree has sentimental value. It was almost as old as my home and has grown with generations of my family. The tree has been first base in hundreds of wiffle ball games with my cousins. My parents wedding reception took place next to that tree, under a tent, in a torrential downpour. My grandmother, an avid gardener, spent hours and hours of her life planting and tending to plants, shaded by that tree. My grandfather parked his work van under it – a powder blue van if I recall, though apparently his red truck lived under that tree before my time. My girls and pups have played in the snow and built snowmen next to that tree in the short decade of this being my home. Many Easter eggs have been hidden under that tree. My mom has childhood memories of playing miniature golf with the maple as a focal point to the game.
The tree survived all storms prior to this and even looked like it was struck by lightning (an occurrence that is debated), but apparently it’s time had come to an end on August 4th, 2020.
When the tree crew arrived, they did an amazing job even when they had already been working non-stop and dealing with their own power outages at home. They cut that tree up in under an hour, made woodchips of most of the branches and then headed off to help the next house or street. The following morning my husband and a wonderful friend cut up most of the tree trunk and large branches to be split for firewood and moved the remnants of the tree to our backyard. Later that same day the tree crew came back and thankfully removed the larger portions of the trunk and stump that our chainsaw couldn’t compete with. And the morning after that, two days after the tree was chopped up, four days after it fell, we woke up to the sounds of my Uncle digging out and breaking up the stump with a backhoe. It’s quite the way to wake up!
Now there’s nothing there but a large patch of dirt. There aren’t a lot of specific family stories about that tree, but over the last six decades, it was the only tree that was still standing in our front yard. We’ll level the land and plant new grass this September and we’re currently debating what type of tree to plant in place of the original. The tree has brought back memories and even brought local family members together to enjoy time together as we said farewell to it.
I don’t know what it is about trees that makes the loss of one feel sad, or perhaps it’s just that dealing with change is tough. Whatever it may be, we may need to plant two trees this time. In the wise words of painter Bob Ross, “I think there ought to be a big old tree right there. And let’s give him a friend. Everybody needs a friend.”
Thank you to everyone who helped remove the tree and keep us safe, especially the Tree Division of the Town of Greenwich’s Parks & Recreation Department, the Greenwich Police Department, local Eversource employees and those who traveled far to supplement Eversource staff and everyone else who helped clear and remove that special tree.
Thank you also to our awesome neighbors who tolerate our shenanigans, including a tree cutting party!