It’s always been the last one to let go of its leaves.
For the last 12 years, we’ve owned a home on Blyth Avenue in Greenwood, in the venerable Old Greenwood Village neighborhood. My family and I lived there for seven years, and when we moved to the Columbia area in 2014, we decided to hold onto the house and rent it out to tenants.
Initially we said that we were keeping the house and choosing to rent it out because the residential resale market back in 2014 was still sluggish as the country was recovering from the Great Recession. Of course, the economy has revved back up, so lately we’ve acted as if we’re holding onto it as something of an investment property.
And I suppose that’s technically true. But, if I’m being 100 percent, completely honest, I’d have to admit to a deeper truth: That simple, brick, ranch-style house on Blyth Avenue is a profoundly special place for me, and I can’t yet bring myself to let it go.
My daughter was born when we lived in that house. It was only a mile from the Index-Journal office, which made for an incredibly convenient drive. Sometimes I’d even walk to work. I’ll never forget one winter when we had a big snow, and I walked to the office, right down the middle of Phoenix Street. There wasn’t another soul on the roads.
It’s the house where we threw a big party every Fourth of July and set off enough fireworks to register on the Richter scale. Where I jumped up and down in the living room, with tears in my eyes, when South Carolina won its first national championship in baseball. Where I strung colored lights in the bushes every Christmas and turned the front yard into a veritable haunted attraction every Halloween night.
Of course, part of the allure was the neighborhood. The Old Greenwood Village is a real, municipal neighborhood. Not a planned development or a subdivision or some manufactured facsimile trying to recreate a feeling. It’s the neighborhood we all like to imagine we grew up in, with weenie roasts in the fall and kids doing lemonade stands and the scent of a charcoal grill in the air in the evening and folks looking after each other. It’s a vibe you can’t fake.
And there are the trees. The streets in the village are lined with soaring, ancient oaks, their canopy creating the neighborhood’s signature look and feel. They provide shade during Greenwood’s blistering summers, and provide a tapestry of colors in autumn.
One of those trees is in the front yard of our house. A towering sentinel that has, for untold years, been a part of the fabric of that property.
But I’m afraid its days have grown short. Our tree is dying.
It has been for a while. For years it’s been shedding dead sticks and limbs, which seem to be getting bigger as time goes by. Recently a massive branch snapped loose, snagging a nearby power line and causing a huge mess.
We’ve made the decision to have it cut down. I hate to do it. Absolutely hate to do it. But, safety first.
We’ll miss that old tree. The one that kept us just a little bit cooler in the summer. The one that provided a place to hide on Halloween night, so you could jump out and scare the trick-or-treaters as they came up the front walk. The one that was always the last tree on the block to let go of its leaves in the late fall. Foliage that that, once it did make it to the ground, ultimately produced the world’s greatest leaf pile for my little girl to jump in.
Thanks for everything, old sentinel. Thanks for watching over our house.