I loved to climb trees when I was growing up. It turns out that I still do, but my current tree-climbing is greatly limited by social expectations for people of my age (late 60s) and a body that is increasingly assertive about protecting its chronologically accumulated insults. But climbing trees was a great pastime when I was little. I used to spend hours climbing and viewing the rural scenery from trees on our property. Some trees were easier to climb than others. Straight, tall pines were very difficult, but smaller trees with many low branches such as maples and dogwood were great fun. Live oaks were also good, once you were able to reach the lower branches.
I liked my time to myself when I was small, I still do, and a lot of my alone time was spent in trees. I believed at the time that I had escaped from everyone, and that no one knew where I was when I was in one of my hide-a-way trees. But my mother set me straight on that with a casual remark when I once commented, “I bet you didn’t know where I was this afternoon.” She knew exactly where I was: in my secret hide-a-way dogwood tree at the edge of the field! Then she explained. I had a small collie dog, Prince, who followed me everywhere. When I climbed a tree, he simply curled up at the bottom of the tree until I came down. Then he would follow me to my next destination. No matter where I went, there was always a faithful dog nearby. In other words, my mother always knew where I was. And that is probably just as well.
Because I loved trees and spending time in them, I wanted a treehouse. My first idea for a treehouse was a small multi-room house that was somehow located in a tree. Or maybe something slightly smaller than the playhouse, only situated on tree branches rather than the ground. I didn’t think through the engineering and construction skills required for this feat. Never mind that, though, because I asked Daddy to build me one, and he had self-attained skills in both engineering and construction. He was also a very practical man with a finite amount of time and energy.
I eagerly watched Daddy build the treehouse. I loved the smell and shape of the newly cut boards. I also witnessed firsthand the challenges of building the simple treehouse structure into the complex form of the chinaberry tree. There were a lot of expressions of “doggone it!” and “shucks”, the strongest language that Daddy used, as he worked. I learned a lot about solving problems by watching Daddy work, though I didn’t realize it at the time.
The treehouse that I got was a nice platform in the chinaberry, one of my favorite trees. I loved its small, fragrant flowers in the spring and its deep green leaves in the summer. The chinaberry tree was in the side yard near the field on the left of the house when facing the front. Beyond the field was woods. It was the perfect place.
I spent many hours in this treehouse, a much more comfortable place for daydreaming than perched on a branch in a tree. I used to imagine that I was a cat, at home and quite comfortable with my body draped on a tree branch. But I am not a cat, and I really liked having the comfortable platform to support my human form. I took it for granted that I had a nice little tree house. But in the years since, when I return to that happy place in my mind, I thank my father. Again.