This week’s Fantastic Friday post is being published on a Sunday in honor of Father’s Day. Going through some pictures for an author presentation this year, I found so many of me and my sister in, or on, or near our backyard treehouse.
This was a treehouse my dad built from scratch, and when I look back on all the photos and rekindle my memories, I realize that the treehouse really was a formative part of my childhood. It was a two-decker structure, with the implied understanding that the bottom level “belonged” to my sister and the top “belonged” to me, though we liberally shared depending on the situation. Among the memories in that treehouse:
The “Totally Tubular Twos Treehouse Club” (I couldn’t think of a “t” word as a synonym for club): This was a writing club I started and press-ganged my sister into joining. Looking back, I see this is my first attempt at being part of a writer’s group. Our goal: to write and share short stories weekly.
Summer Drama: With the neighbors, we wrote, directed, and performed plays for our parents. The plays were terrible—I even have the sense of knowing how bad they were even as we were writing them—but the experience of being in control of the story was thrilling even at such a young age. My dad rigged a bucket on a pulley system so that we could transport items to the upper level. We found ways to work this into our plays, much like Shakespeare found ways of using the hidden “Hell” trapdoor in his plays at The Globe.
Leaf Piles: In addition to building the treehouse, my dad hung a rope swing from the tree. The swing had a foot loop, and we would leap off of the lower platform, hanging onto that rope and swinging into the leaf pile.
Ice “Pond”: The only good thing about New England winters was that it got so cold that you (or your dad) could turn your back yard into its own Winter Olympics obstacle course. Among the featured obstacles: an ice “pond” made by dumping water under the tree. We used the rope and the treehouse to propel ourselves around the little pond, playing all sorts of dangerous and thrilling ice games.
A Quiet Escape: Above all, I remember the top level of the treehouse. During the summers, it was a leafy paradise in which I could bring my journal or a book or simply my thoughts. I felt a million miles away from the crowded city I grew up in. Like a young Emerson or Thoreau, I opened my mind to nature, looking up close at birds and bugs and caterpillars. In the winter months, even the absence of leaves didn’t rob the privacy of the upper deck. I enjoyed the comforting scent of the smoky air wafting from nearby homes and the solitude of being outside when everyone else was tucked away indoors.
So as Father’s Day comes to a close, I wanted to reflect on how blessed I am to have such memories, and I am grateful to have a dad clever and dedicated enough to make them possible.