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Forgotten Christmas trees?

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In with the new and out with the old – such, it seems, is what happens at this time of year.

You don’t have to drive neighborhood streets to see that more than Christmas is over.

Indeed, the trees that held a revered spot in living rooms and dens, now denuded of their shiny ornaments and shining lights, await the yard waste collection trucks – or, on these windy days, roll into the road for games of dodge-em. They’re sorry sights, tawny green and shedding their needles.

The purge is not limited to trees. Couches, tables, chairs, bookcases and TVs await heavy trash pickup. Used clothing bins are stuffed to overflowing.

It’s a new year. Christmas is over and we must move on … or do we?

Unlike some who adhere to a schedule to dismantle all things Christmas, usually immediately following New Year’s Day for some of our family members, Carol and I seem to know when it’s time for the tree. It’s often weeks after the city tree collection is completed and Valentine’s Day is the next major retail event.

The tree lets us know. It looks furlong, even bedraggled. It’s stopped drinking water. Needles are dry and falling, although at night and with her lights she shines.

It’s some consolation knowing Christmas trees travel to the city’s composting station, where they are mulched for a new role in their life cycle. That is better than burial in a landfill, although they would ultimately serve the same purpose or torched in a bonfire.

Without a prearranged plan, one of us will get the ornament boxes from the third floor and we’ll start packing. On occasions the dismantling can be as rewarding as the decorating, as we recall events of Christmases past and who gave us specific ornaments. Then there are the times, too, when it’s more of a chore, especially when it comes to sweeping up all the needles as the tree makes the way from living room to the porch. We keep finding them months later.

But our tree is not destined for the compost station, at least not until springtime. She has a new home and purpose. From living room, she goes to the side yard and within feet of the bird feeder. Wedged between bushes and a fence, she stands tall and can withstand the wind. It’s not long before she’s discovered. Squirrels have no love of her, which is fine. But it’s refuge for our feathered visitors. They perch in the inner branches between forays to find thistle and sunflower seeds – living ornaments to a tree that once brought life to our home.

When warmer weather arrives and the crocuses and the forsythia bloom and the vermilion of spring fills the yard, birds still stop at the tree, yet it’s time.

Sanitation crews must wonder what’s taken us so long to put out our Christmas tree. How would they know of her role as a winter refuge for our wild friends and the enjoyment she provided?

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