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Expressway: So long to a tree that watched a family grow up

Remnants of a tree that stood for more

Remnants of a tree that stood for more than 50 years at the home of Anne Donlon Achenbach in South Farmingdale. An ice storm knocked it over in February 2014. Photo Credit: Anne Donlon Achenbach

It was strange to watch the tree come down.

I was 26 the year my family moved to Long Island. Our lives had taken us across the country, and we had lived many places before we arrived in South Farmingdale. As the truck moved our belongings into the Cape Cod home, I thought to myself, "We'll only be here for a little while."

That was 50-odd years and four children ago, and now I'm the only one left.

Perhaps that's why I felt such sadness as workmen so efficiently removed the large pine tree that had loomed over the roof of my home and separated my neighbor's lot from mine.

Or perhaps it's because the day we moved in, the only other thing we saw on the property beside the blue house was this same tree, then barely taller than my children. For some reason, the developer had left it standing when the property was cleared.

I have a notoriously black thumb, but in the months that followed our arrival, our two small children and I visited the City Of Glass nursery in Farmingdale weekly to buy shrubbery to enclose our corner lot.

We bought indiscriminately, mostly what was on sale, and within the next few years, our property was bordered in forsythia, spirea and a few lovely lilac bushes. As years passed, and the family increased by two more helpers, rose bushes were added. Fortunately, my children all inherited a green thumb from their father's side of the family.

As the four children grew, the shrubbery became larger and luxuriant, and had to be pruned more often. Maybe it should have been a warning that life was moving faster, too.

But I didn't notice. I am not certain if I wish I had. Because truthfully, I was so happy and busy, I'm glad now I didn't see the changes coming.

Some of the rose bushes wilted and died. That was about the time my daughter departed to lead her own life. Her brother was close behind, and I didn't take that much notice of the open spaces where the roses once grew.

Within the next few years, the lilacs stopped blooming, and that was the summer our two youngest children left for college. I didn't bother to replace the lilacs. It wasn't as much fun without my young helpers.

About 10 years ago, my husband and I decided to replace the large evergreens in the front of our home with smaller shrubbery. There had been warnings from Nassau police about overgrown bushes becoming hiding places for home invaders. That was the winter my husband became ill.

Our lives had changed and so had the landscaping in the place where I thought I might stay for just a little while. But the days and years had flown as quickly as the forsythia and spirea had grown. Then one day I realized I had spent most of my life in the small house on the corner.


Recently I heard a noise and walked outside to see what caused it. That is when I saw the pine tree, the one that was here before I was, lying gently against my house. Heavy ice from a storm was to blame.

It could have fallen harder; it could have gone through the window and into the den, where I was sitting. But oddly enough, it just seemed to quietly brush against the shingles as it fell.

Perhaps it was saying goodbye, now that I am thinking about leaving, too.

Reader Anne Donlon Achenback lives in South Farmingdale.