Declan Flanagan hangs out in his favourite tree. — Photo by Susan Flanagan/Special to The Telegram
I visit the mall twice a year, maybe more if I get to a movie (this was a banner year; I got to “The Hunger Games” and “Life of Pi” in 3D). Anyway yesterday was one of my biannual trips.
My daughter told me where to find a tricky gift on my list and Surprise Baby and I found it exactly where she said it would be. God bless teenagers.
We made our purchase and were just getting the heck out of there when Surprise Baby spied the Happy Tree. The tree looked like he was sleeping except that his soccerball-sized eyes were open.
I ventured into his coral. Surprise Baby hung back, a bit timid. That is, until Mr. Happy Tree, with an inviting Old-World accent, asked him to come closer so he could have a look at him.
Mr. Happy Tree is a bit older than he was in past years. I guess we all are. But his hearing is good as long as you cosy up to the fence and he can see your lips. Surprise Baby was smitten.
It was no surprise, for Surprise Baby is a tree lover.
Every day on his way home from kindergarten, Surprise Baby stops at his favourite tree along the Rennies River Trail. The fort in his nevergreen tree (I have explained about deciduous and evergreens, but the term nevergreen prevails) is multi-storeyed. The basement is often flooded and a beaver apparently lives in a ground-floor lodge.
Like a pet dog, Surprise Baby marks his territory at the exact same place every afternoon at approximately quarter to three.
So passersby can only bear witness to the two little buns of bread and no other anatomical parts.
While he’s doing his thing, I can’t help remembering favourite trees from my childhood.
Growing up we had the Hooterville Tree in a big field off Mercer’s Lane. We spent hours climbing in that tree.
Later, when we were old enough to venture farther afield, we’d wander down to Kent’s Pond to visit the Headless Horseman. If you walk the trail, you’ll know which tree I mean.
I was so sad to see the Headless Horseman recently lost an arm to hurricane Leslie. He still stands tall and proud, his headless neck filled with birdseed and chippy squirrels.
When we became parents, my husband and I made countless trips across Newtown Road so our first three boys could visit the Spooky Old Tree on the western border of the cemetery. They spent hours climbing that tree.
Now Nos. 4 and 5 often come with us on one of our favourite afternoon walks from the Botanical Garden on Mount Scio down to Long Pond. Just before you come to Elaine Dobbin’s Autism Centre, you’ll see an oak tree at least 100 years old on your left. I feel like tying yellow ribbons around it every time I pass.
I have heard rumours that this gnarly old oak is the oldest tree in St. John’s, but I am not sure if it is legend or fact.
I’m not sure if this tree has a nickname, but I call it the Penguin Tree after the No Kicking Penguins musical park just below it.
This time of year you can, of course, admire trees without going outdoors. The Happy Tree, for example, is one children wait for year after year.
It not only makes them laugh, but cements in their little minds the need for taking care of the less fortunate in our community. God knows you don’t have to send a goat to Africa to help a family in need.
For over four decades the Avalon Mall has been partnering with VOCM and the Salvation Army to bring toys to children up to 18 and food hampers for families.
We, the public, help by picking up an extra toy while we’re out shopping and leaving it in the bin next to the Happy Tree, unwrapped, so volunteers can match it to the appropriate child.
Lots of businesses choose the Happy Tree as their charity of choice and hold toy and money drives at work. For more information, call the Salvation Army at 726-0393.
I, being the egocentric Townie I am, just learned from the Happy Tree website that there are also trees in Marystown, Grand Falls-Windsor, Clarenville and Carbonear.
I have to tell you why I chose to write about trees this week. Marie-Beth Wright, a reader, is the one who suggested I write this column.
She wrote to tell me about a tree that doesn’t get as much attention as some, but does as much good. The Tree of Wishes, in Sears in the Avalon Mall, provides Christmas gifts for the Boys and Girls Clubs in Buckmaster’s Circle, Mundy Pond H.G.R. Mews Centre and the Wabana Club on Bell Island.
Like the VOCM/Sally Ann Happy Tree, the Sears Tree of Wishes has supported the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada for over 40 years.
Here’s how it works. Boys and Girls Club children can pick a toy in Sears Wish Book for up to $35. Then Sears shoppers pull a card off the Tree of Wishes and bring it to the cash to purchase one of the toys.
The tree fills up quickly and all of this year’s wishes have been filled. If you’re interested for next year, get on the ball in November. If you have questions, call Kelly Sandoval, executive director at 709-579-0181 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And then there’s the 17th Annual Festival of Trees at the Delta in aid of the Canadian Cancer Society, which also sold out this year.
This one involves a $125 gala dinner and auction, with all proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society. Dozens of magnificently decorated trees on display in the Delta lobby are auctioned off for a good cause, and successful bidders (companies or families) get to display the trees in their lobbies or homes.
I’m sure there are other giving trees worth mentioning so feel free to send details. Is there a partnership between Gower Street United and Stella Burry?
One last note. I received plenty of feedback, including many phone calls, on the Loblaw leasing vacant properties article and will write more as soon as I can get some answers from the City of St. John’s.
Is it true that commercial properties receive a tax break from the city if their properties are vacant? What exact laws are in place regarding commercial properties left vacant for extended periods of time?
Or this strange one: can a non-unionized supermarket move into a space vacated by a unionized supermarket within a certain amount of time?
I can’t wait to hear the answers.
Susan Flanagan loves trees and can’t wait to see “The Lorax” on DVD. She can be reached at email@example.com