Boughs of Love

”Do you think you’d ever consider cutting down that tree?” a neighbor up the street once asked me, studying my front yard.

“Do you think you’d ever consider cutting down that tree?” a neighbor up the street once asked me, studying my front yard. “If you do, I bet it would make your house look bigger.” Um, who said anything about me wanting my house to look bigger? I thought it was an odd comment.

Indeed, though, we had been thinking of cutting down the massive pine tree because it had outgrown its spot to the point where we could barely get out of the car without being ambushed by swathes of prickly pine boughs, falling pinecones, and dripping sap. And yet, who would cut down a perfectly good tree? A great deal taller than our two-story home and as wide as half our yard, it pretty much masked the front of the house. I sometimes thought our home’s exterior was like a bad haircut — too many bangs, and you can’t see that pretty face! But yet, year after year it stood. It even became a landmark for party guests and friends searching for our driveway on dark winter nights.

Then, one day, we noticed its lower half looked ill. The boughs were crispy and brown, and lots of dry needles were piled up on the ground. My husband had an arborist look at it, and he suggested we consider some type of injection since the top half was still in good shape. So that’s what we did.

Meanwhile, our sons pestered my husband — the Midwest’s most passionate tree-lover — to get rid of the tree. Dad, they said, it’s messy. Dad, it’s half our yard! Dad, it’s in the way. When our younger son took a job at English Gardens, he had plenty to say about how he’d change our landscaping. But here’s the thing: That towering pine provided a home for nesting birds, inspired me to learn to draw (another story for another time), offered us lovely shade, and kept our house cooler during hot summer days. We never knew how true that last attribute was until the day after. The day after it came down, that is — because it never rallied in spite of the injections.

With tears in his eyes, my husband, taking hundreds of pictures, watched several men chop away at the blue-green beauty. My sentimental Ron even saved the top of the tree, which was still fresh and vibrant. He stuck the 5-foot-tall top into the ground where the evergreen had once stood, wrapped it with Christmas tree lights, and it became part of our holiday decor.

Come last summer, we noticed that all six panels on our front door were melting! We didn’t understand why at first, and then realized they were made of some sort of plastic and the tree had kept the sun from hitting the front door. (I have to ask, though, who would put plastic panels on their front door?) It wasn’t in the budget to get a new door right away (you know how much it costs to have a tree taken down, right?) and, of course, I wanted to put a lot of thought into the door as well as its color.

Some time went by and, naturally, our sons were appalled as the panels continued to melt. I am generally of the mindset that when something breaks, you should fix it immediately. We didn’t, though. Was it because we didn’t want to forget about the tree and the many things it did for us, including making our door look good?

After an appropriate time of mourning, and sensing that the holidays were approaching, we decided it was time to get the house painted and get a new door. I had difficulty committing to the new door, however, because there was nothing wrong with it — the only problem was those darn panels! I asked some interior designers if they knew of any good painters. Kourtney, at Lisa Petrella Interiors, recommended Ljuidi, who came to survey the house and door. “You can either replace the entire door or we could figure out a way to recreate those panels in the exact size, in wood,” Ljuidi said.

I liked the idea of not throwing out a perfectly good door, and I loved the idea of panels in wood. Ljuidi’s carpenter tore off the melted pieces, filled all the holes, sanded the door to a smooth-as-ice surface, recreated the panels in his workshop, primed them, and attached them to the door. Next, three coats of gorgeous Sherwin-Williams Sea Serpent paint were applied. With new life and a new color, the door now looks better than ever.

Why Sea Serpent? Well, when the light hits it just so, the shade is sort of reminiscent of the colors deep within the blue-green boughs of that cherished pine tree. It’s hard to say goodbye to an old friend, even if that friend is a tree.