Created: November 26, 2020 10:37 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s safe to say we’re all searching for little bits of joy during this tough time, and in one northeast Albuquerque neighborhood, that joy is literally dripping from the trees.
It all started with Jim and Shirley Steward.
“When you've lived together over 60 years, you run out of things to talk about after a while!” Jim said.
The usually active couple has been stuck at home since the pandemic started. Their normal visits with the neighborhood kids near Alameda and Barstow had to change for everyone’s safety.
“They go by here about every day on their tricycles, and we hug on them and hold them and the first of June, we had to tell them that we could no longer do that because of the pandemic,” Jim said. “One of the little children, who was four, got off his tricycle, dug around in a box at the back of it, and pulled out a pine cone and handed it to me."
“That show of affection and kindness stunned us all. We just stood there,” he added.
That’s when Jim got the idea of painting the pine cone then hanging it from a tree in his front yard.
“I said if you bring any more pine cones, put them by the rock here and I will paint them and hang them. Well they went every day! Went every day and I've had between three and eight every morning since June 1st when we came out,” Jim said.
The colorful pine cone display soon caught the whole neighborhood’s attention, so Jim put up a sign on his mailbox about the tree he calls “The Pine Cone Tree of Love”.
“People said, ‘Can we bring a pine cone?’ I said, ‘Yeah, bring 'em over,’” Jim said.
Now almost 200 pine cones hang from the tree. The Stewards said they’ve started noticing painted pine cones hanging from other trees in their neighborhood, too.
“We're meeting people we've never met before and it has really been a blessing,” Jim said.
“We found out there's a couple that lives up around the corner who have the virus and I'm going to take a string up and hang it in their tree, so they can look out the window and I hope it makes them smile a little bit,” he added.
The couple lives in Vineyard Estates on Corona Avenue and said people are welcome to drop off their own pine cones to be painted.
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