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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Our Special Place

     Looking at the small pile of bits and pieces of scrap wood near the big double car garage my father had built a little while back, Butchy and I hatched our own construction plan. A tree house. I am thinking that I must have been nine years old when Butchy and I developed this special place for ourselves because my father would never have let us do this. He was not at home for a few months when I was nine because he was on one of those temporary duty assignments his military service sometimes asked of him. Of course, we asked my mother if we could build a tree house but, it is equally likely that she was busy at the time and did not take all factors into account when she said, “Uh, oh, yes, go ahead.” On to the next step.
     “Hello, Mrs. W,” the young 8- and 9-year-old wannabe builders chirped and smiled at the elderly lady standing in the backdoor of her home.
     “We have been noticing your big tree right over there and would like to ask you a question.” All heads turned to admire the large tree, heavy with green foliage at this particular time of the year. It stood tall and stately, very near the property line of young Sojourner’s own backyard.
     “Yes, it has been there for many years and gives me a lot of shade for the backyard.”
     “We can see that there are some lower branches that look really strong, too.”
     “Well, yes, that is how a tree grows,” she said, “It’s the higher branches that are smaller and weaker but those lower ones are strong, indeed.” At this point we briefly described our desire for a small tree house and our hope to build it in her tree. Not too big and not too high and, of course, we would be very careful not to hurt the tree branches. No, Ma’am, there would not be a lot of children running in and out of her backyard on account of that tree because the tree house was just for Butchy and me. No one else would be allowed in the tree house.
     I am uncertain just what made her agree to let us try. The oh-so-eager (and expectant) countenance on our faces? Or, perhaps, it was the confidence we just oozed as we reminded her that my father had built that new garage all by himself and, of course, he had taught us how to drive a nail straight into any kind of wood. It’s not like we did not know what we were doing, right? She must have been convinced because Butchy and I were carrying our bits and pieces around from our backyard to hers within a few minutes.
     We attached three small boards to the massive trunk of the tree right off as they would be our “ladder” into the tree house. That made it easier to get to those lower branches throughout the construction. The frame was attached to the lower branches.  We secured the short planks on leftover beams and, together, hoisted it up on the waiting frame. That was the hardest part, really. That platform made up the floor of the structure.
     It is at this point that we decided to try it out and ran to get our comic books and other things we wanted to keep in the semi-lofty refuge. Both of us had little sisters, age six years, who had observed the process all day and had hopes of being asked to climb up the “ladder” to take a peek from the platform. Ha! Not likely; this was our special place. Naturally, they voiced some objections but did not run home to get adult reinforcements immediately. They waited and listened to us “settling in” above them. We made all kinds of plans of walled sides and furnishings for the tree house which was, quite clearly, only in the early stages of construction and not anywhere near completion of those grandiose plans. We would work on it more tomorrow; but, for now, we would just enjoy that first day’s labors as we stretched out on the platform, reading our comic books.
     The little girls were just not going to give up their hope to sit in the “tree house”. We may have let them have one look-see—I don’t remember, for sure.  Butchy and I decided we needed to do something to make this place ours alone. Suddenly we remembered a sign that had been hung on the tree house during a scene in a children’s program both of us had watched recently. This television feature was probably where the seed was planted that resulted in the structure we now wanted to preserve as our own special place. A sign. That’s exactly what we needed. We tossed around all kinds of ideas but we had to consider what words we could spell, as well as the size of the sign. At last, we just went with the sign in the television program, even though there was a “little” conflict with the wording and oldest partner in this project. The sign simply read: No Girls Allowed!
     The excitement of our special place was a very short-lived joy, however. Oh, not because the little girls complained to our mothers but because Mrs. W’s son came to visit her. He quickly assessed the big picture (and potential law suit). As soon as he saw our tree house platform, he strongly advised his mother to have us take it down before anyone got hurt. So, within a week of going up, our special place was, once again, back in a pile of scrap wood near the new garage.

     There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:…a time to tear down and a time to build…” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1 and 3b)

Or, in our case, “A time to build and a time to tear down.”

****Emma Mae’s Special Place… Coming Tomorrow
The next morning we looked over the remaining pieces of wood and eye-balled the size of each piece we thought we might need to make a wall. The problem was that we did not see anything we could actually use to secure the wall to the platform. Oops, maybe that should have gone on the platform before we put it on the frame? Probably. Well, no matter. We can just use the tree house as it was right now, without walls, couldn’t we? We would just have to be careful not to go too close to the edge. Having reached the end of our building knowledge, we did just that; we used the platform as our finished product.

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