Every year around this time, I go into battle mode. Battle fatigue is a clear danger after 11 years of warfare.
During my time in this house, I have fought off mice and ants, and one time suffered through a strange fly infestation. Seemingly overnight, I had dozens of flies throughout the house, but they disappeared almost as quickly as they had appeared. Very odd indeed.
But this particular menace doesn't gnaw, crawl or fly. It's stationary but pesky nonetheless. It's the Brazilian pepper tree in my frontyard.
I could rake and sweep its leaves every day if I had the time and energy. As it is, I try to get out on the weekends.
I've learned to not bother trying to make the yard pristine when I rake but just gather a few big piles for the green bin. Making it all look less horrible is my simple goal. After all, the tree mocks me, sending leaves fluttering even as I'm gathering and disposing of others.
"Losing battle" keeps repeating in my brain.
Herb, who lives toward the end of the cul de sac, always chuckles at me when he drives by. I am sure his money is on the tree.
But it's not like I can ignore the whole situation. I take pride in my house and my neighborhood. We're not talking just a few leaves here. It's more like, keep track of your kids and pets or they might disappear under the leafy blanket.
I made a deal with myself when I spent a small fortune to buy the house: I would do the chores that I could handle. I can mow the lawn, trim most bushes, complete easy indoor painting projects and pop a loose gutter back into place. Once a year, I like to bring in my tree service guys to clean up the queen palm and giant birds of paradise. They get to looking pretty scruffy.
But doing something with my frontyard tree always seemed like a luxury. It gets bigger and fuller each year but doesn't develop dead fronds or weeping birds.
I've made casual comments about taking the tree out or at least cutting it back considerably. When I am visiting friends across the street and look back, I am always startled by the sight. It looks like the tree is eating my house.
But Beth and Steve say they like the tree.
OK, I respond. You're the ones who have to look at it.
Then there is Dana. She lives next door to me. One summer she was raving about my Brazilian pepper, going on about how it's a wonderful shade tree and how she would like to sit under it, reading a book.
Feel free, I said. My tree is your tree.
She doesn't even complain when the leaves start piling up at the edge of her property.
Dana has a good point. I like the shade that the tree provides too. It keeps things cooler and the grass greener during the hottest days.
So I remain trapped in this love-hate relationship. I know that somewhere around mid to late December, the tree will have shed its last leaf and I can give my rake, and my arms, a rest.
Then I will look at my sometime foe and think: Till next year, tree.
Veteran journalist DEBBIE ZUCCO is a copy editor for Times Community News, which includes the Daily Pilot, Coastline Pilot and Huntington Beach Independent.