My Pet Tree

His name is Phred. I got him in December of 1980 when he was about 5 inches high. If you do the math, that’s been 25 years ago — This year will be his 26th Christmas.

So here’s the back story: In December of 1979, I filed for divorce, packed everything I owned into my blue Datsun B210 hatchback and drove back to Texas from Charleston, WV, where my soon to be ex- and I were living. I’d had enough of him and of West –By God — Virginia. When I left Charleston, I had $700 and the contents of the Datsun to my name. I moved back in with my parents for a couple of months til I could find a job and get enough together to get an apartment. I’d been living on my own for a while by then, what with college, a hitch in the Air Force, and then being married. Much as I love them, my parents and I march to the beat of different drummers. Yes, it was my old room, but it was their house. I needed my own space. Right after Christmas, I got a job with Texas Instruments, and by March I could swing a little one bedroom apartment. I didn’t have much — kitchen stuff, my dad’s old recliner, a bed I’d bought in WV, a mattress, a little TV, some plastic snap-together shelves, and my mom’s card table and chairs, and that was pretty much it. Christmas of 1980 was pretty lean. Albertson’s over on Slide Road had these little live pine trees in foil wrapped pots with little ornaments and some foil tinsel so on a whim, I got one to use as my Christmas tree. I thought, I’ll probably kill it , but then for $6, what the heck.

I moved to the apartment on 21st street in March of 1981, so Phred did most of his growing there. By then, I had acquired this livid green hide-a-bed couch, a night stand, an end table, a couple of bar stools, a red velvet chair, a little sofa table, and a decent stereo. There was a lovely east facing window that was about 10 feet from the side of the building next door that had a lot of reflected light off the white stucco, but not much heat. It was perfect for Phred. I watered him when I thought about it, misted him occasionally, and repotted him as he grew — three times in all. And every year, he has continued to be my Christmas tree. He has accumulated a very festive wardrobe of Christmas ornaments over the years. He also now has a very fine metal and glass Martha Stewart table all his very own, which you can see under his tree skirt in the picture at left.

For a long time, it was just me and Phred. Then in 1997, a friend’s cat had a litter of kittens and I brought two of them home. The boy kitty I named Jett, and the girl kitty I named Shadow (but ended up calling her “Sister”). Then two years later, I accumulated another boy kitten and named him “Gobi.” Me and Phred and the three kitties were right happy right where we were, but then the Texas Department of Transportation decided to build a freeway by us and wanted 18 inches off the tail end of our building to accomodate it. If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll already know what happened next. I had the movers carry Phred down stairs to the street and I belted his pot into the front seat of the famous Toyota Crayola and off we motored to our new digs. The pix above are of Phred in his current locale, a north facing window in a little room off the kitchen that I refer to as “The Liberry” for obvious reasons. He’s right next to the back door and has some nice sheers to tone down the light. Norfolk Island Pines are from Norfolk Island off New Zealand, and their climate is much more temperate and moist than that here in the flatlands of North Texas, where it is decidedly too hot, too dry and too sunny for Phred to possibly survive out doors. So, he’s an indoor tree. He and the kitties peacefully coexist. They do have a tendency to rub their faces on his trunk, but he does not smell at all tasty so he is not munched on.

Then, Xmas of 2002, my dad gave me a bamboo plant (a “bumbershoot”) which he christened “Phranque” (far left) so that Phred would have a phriend. Not to be outdone, that spring I got a second one and christened it “Phranseen” (far right). Then this summer, I got another one and christened it “Phaye.” They live on top of the refrigerator. The kitties are not interested in them either, although Jett did knock Phranseen off the refrigerator and broke her pot (and spilled her cotton-picking little white rocks ALL over the floor! — I’m still finding one every now and then two years later!). I had to transplant her to a cup, which was the only thing I happened to have on hand that was suitable. He didn’t do it on purpose. Gobi was chasing him and he got carried away, lept up on the counter, etc. Luckily, I heard the commotion and rescued her. One of her shoots got “decapitated” but otherwise she survived OK. Phred and the Bumbershoots are the only real plants I have inside. All the others are silk.

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