The Hiding Trees

The Hiding Trees February 21, 2023


We are losing our trees.

The handyman came back to fill the sink hole with clay and fix the gutter so it would stop opening up. As he was standing in our kitchen he noticed a drip mark above the fridge that I hadn’t seen. That meant he went upstairs and examined the caulk around the shower, which I hadn’t noticed was cracked. We’re getting a new shower. On his way out, he noticed the cracked window. Removing the window from its frame exposed the front porch roof, which no one knew was falling apart. It’s not visible from the street because the cedar trees, which were tall bushes when we moved in, are now taller than it is. The cedar trees are dripping resin, which is ruining the shingles. They are also hiding a tall maple sapling which will eventually rip the porch apart as it grows. You can’t have a tree flush with your porch. Their lives are forfeit, as soon as he has a spare day to cut them down.

Those were our hiding trees.

When we first moved in, little Adrienne, who used to go by Rosie, would climb on their thicker limbs. The other neighborhood children were used to using our porch and those trees as a clubhouse when our house was a derelict drug house, before the landlord bought it. They played together in there. And then the neighbor moved in. She helped herself to that space, crawling into the trees to steal Adrienne’s things if Adrienne left them there, muttering that “some b*tches got no pride.” I watched that performance in quiet shock, unwilling to call the police over a Dollar Tree squirt gun and sippy cup.

One day, when I was tending the vegetable patch, she wandered across our property line and accosted me in the yard. “Did I do something to offend you guys?” she asked. She said she’d come into our backyard yesterday with a bag of canned food to give us and shouted through the open window, but nobody had answered.

I was surprised at this kindness, after the way she’d treated the neighbors, and I didn’t know why she hadn’t knocked at the door instead of trespassing. I thanked her.

“I just saw the garden, and I always like to help people who have less than me. I get BIG BAGS of food from the cancer charity but I don’t eat it. I just eat steak. Really. Nothing but steak.”

“Oh? What kind of cancer do you have?”

By way of answer, she pulled aside her blouse to flash a breast at me, the puckered ring of her aureola clearly visible. I could see the lumpectomy scar, and the longer gash in her chest where they’d put the port.

I thanked her very much for the cans of mushy old vegetables, which I passed along to the free pantry because I was growing fresh ones.

Within a month, she turned on us for no discernable reason. She ran across the property line to scream and assault, to film us on her phone in an attempt to get  evidence we were calling her racist names. Sometimes she’d stalk back and forth with a knife, or with her German Shepherd on a chain.  Every time a child played in the clubhouse or Adrienne climbed a cedar tree, I’d catch it.

One afternoon, a little boy dared to throw a ball in the wrong direction so it rolled onto her lawn. She pushed her way through the cedar trees and poured the ashes from her charcoal grill all over our porch. When that didn’t garner enough attention, she called the police and claimed the boys were vandalizing her lawn, and then she retaliated by vandalizing ours. After that, Adrienne and her friends did not play in the trees. But they were still used for hiding. I would count on those trees to shield me if I darted out of my house to get the mail. They provided a privacy curtain.

Of course, she used the privacy curtain as well– she would stand out there behind the trees, motionless, waiting for me. When I came out, she’d bellow obscenities.

Now the trees are being cut down.

There will be no shield between my house and hers.

The stalking neighbor mentioned, when she took us to court last winter, that the cancer had spread to her liver. She claimed that we ruined the last Christmas she’d ever have on this earth by banging on her windows at four in the morning and threatening to kill her son. After that last bit of harassment, we heard from her less and less. By August, our pleasant neighbor on the other side was mowing both our lawn and hers because she’d  stopped doing it. Michael caught a glimpse of her in the early winter, slowly limping up her porch steps. And after that, nothing. The garbage can hasn’t been moved from in front of her garage for weeks. The lights don’t change. Her children come now and then to take in the mail.

The sink hole that was eating away at the gap between our houses is full of clay. I will sprinkle clover seed on it in March.

Our hiding trees that were eating away at the porch are under the ban and are going to die.

Where there was shade will be light.

Everything hidden will be laid bare.

I think I’ll plant sunflowers.

I think I’ll plant a cherry tree for the songbirds to enjoy, a safe distance from the porch.

I think I’ll open my window to say goodbye to the hiding trees, and cry until I can cry no more.


Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.




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