Christmas tree finally finds peace at Druid Hill Park


January 09, 1993|By ROB KASPER

This is a tale of the Christmas tree that wouldn't leave.

I put it in the alley. The trash trucks came and went. The smaller trees were carried off, but this bruiser of a tree remained. It leaned up against a utility pole. Its branches clawed anybody venturing near the trash cans. Its trunk blocked the driveway of the parking pad.

The tree seemed angry, and I blamed myself. It wasn't always hostile. It once had been a full, bushy tree, laden with lights, its needles soft. Then I did a terrible thing. I took the tree down at the height of Christmas Day. The tree had not been the same since.

It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. The presents had been opened. The kids had gone to their friends' homes to compare loot. And our family was leaving town the next day for a week. Maybe I had been reading too many fire safety brochures or watching too many episodes of "America's Most Wanted," but the idea of a Christmas tree sitting for a week in an empty house worried me. Instead of lights and greenery, I saw a fire hazard and a burglar-attracter. So before I could say "911," I was up on a ladder taking the lights and ornaments off the tree. My wife helped.

A few Christmas Day pedestrians caught a glimpse through our front windows of what we were doing. They seemed stunned. I closed the shutters.

I tried to sneak the tree out the back door and into the back yard. Usually when I take the tree down, I carry it out the front door. The front door is closer and much wider than the back door. But if I used the front door, chances were good that somebody might spot me. We live in a rowhouse. So to get the tree to the back of the house, I would have to carry it out the front door, down the HTC street, around the corner, then up the alley. In broad daylight.

I imagined this scene. A neighbor, reveling in the spirit of Christmas, would look out on the sidewalk. Then what to his wondering eyes would appear, but me, carrying the felled tree. Away to his window the neighbor would move in a flash, tear open the shutters, throw up the sash, and holler "Scrooge!" Other neighbors would soon join in the chant.

It was a scene I wanted to avoid. I attempted to force the 5-foot-wide tree down the 3-foot-wide staircase that led to the back door. The tree fought me all the way. Branches flailed. Needles flew. Pieces of furniture gave way. The tree wouldn't go down the stairs.

Forced to retreat, I swallowed my pride and carried the tree out the front door. I put the tree in a wheelbarrow. My wife helped me. She even spoke to someone on the street. I didn't say a word. I was too ashamed. I kept my head down and wheeled the tree around the block.

I didn't have the heart to put the tree in the alley on Christmas. So I let it rest on the back porch. There it sat, out of sight, until we returned from our travels. Then I pulled it out to the alley and waited for the trash guys to cart the tree and the sour memories off to the landfill.

The longer the tree stayed in the alley, the more uneasy I felt. One morning I heard a woman from the Sierra Club on National Public Radio talking about all the space Christmas trees take up in our already crowded landfills. According to the Sierra Club woman, old Christmas trees could be coaxed into performing all sorts of ecologically benign acts, from preventing beach erosion to transforming themselves into water-retaining mulch.

My first reaction to the radio report was to see if I could ship my mean tree to Ocean City, where bound together with thousands of other such trees it could battle the waves for sand.

Then I read a note in the paper saying that if I got my tree to Druid Hill Park by 4 p.m. Friday, the city would mulch it. (Today and tomorrow Baltimore City and radio station 92Q are sponsoring a mulching program from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Eastern High School parking lot, 1101 E. 33rd St.; Westview Mall parking lot, 7748 Baltimore National Pike; and Eastpoint Mall. Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties also mulch trees at landfill and recycling centers.)

I hesitated before trying to squeeze the tree into the car trunk. Did I want to save the Earth, or save the trunk from an invasion of pine needles? I compromised. I covered the trunk with an old dropcloth and once again wrestled with the bruiser. The tree didn't want to go in the trunk. But when I got to the site of the tree drop, back behind the park's ball fields, it relaxed and easily took its place in the pile.

That is where I left the tree. In a sylvan spot, ready to meet its chipper.

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