The Metal Treehouse

I’ve mentioned before that my youth involved moving around from one house to another, from one family member to another.  I’ve come to grips with what happened in my life, accepting the few good moments and dealing with the tougher times as teaching moments.

When you move around so many times, it’s hard to establish roots anywhere.  You move to a new location, and you want to make friends.  But you know, in the back of your mind, that it’s just not possible.  One day you’re hanging out at the store with your friends from school, the next day you’re filling out transfer papers so that your school records can go to the next school in the next neighborhood or in the next city or in the next state.

One time in second grade, back when I was attending Greenfield Center Elementary School (number 3 on the list of The Twelve), one of my schoolmates invited me, along with several other classmates, to a birthday party.  My mother helped me pick out a small gift from the local Jamesway – I think we got him a puzzle, if I recall correctly – and she gift-wrapped it for him.  I mean, it was a birthday party and all.

The birthday party was a lot of fun, I do remember there were lots of slices of cake and lots of scoops of ice cream.  Of course kids remember such things.  We mark our growth by the flavors of cake and the sweetness of ice cream.

One of the birthday gifts our friend got was a football, and we took turns throwing it back and forth in his backyard.  Okay, none of us were budding Terry Bradshaws or Fran Tarkentons, but we tossed the ball around and we had fun doing it.

In the backyard, alongside one of the trees, was something I had never seen before.  It looked like a metal treehouse; a small ladder that led up to an elevated metal floor.  Scaffolding surrounded the structure.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“That’s my dad’s,” the birthday boy said.  “Wanna climb up?”

“Sure,” I replied.  “Looks like fun.”

So the birthday boy and I both climbed up the metal ladder to the platform.

“Wow,” I said.  “I can see all the way to the street from here.”  Of course we’re probably just a few feet off the ground, but for us it was like being on the observation deck of the Empire State Building.

“Hey, toss the football up here,” the birthday boy shouted to the kids below.

It took about four tries, but eventually my classmates threw the football so that it landed on the platform.

We took turns tossing the football from the metal treehouse, a bunch of kids just having fun on a beautiful autumn afternoon.

And the fun ended quickly.


Uh oh…

Birthday boy’s father caught us.  Apparently what we didn’t know is that what we thought was a metal treehouse was actually his father’s elevated hunting stand.  And hunting stands aren’t exactly designed for child safety.

We meekly climbed down the metal ladder and went back in the house.  Birthday boy played with a few of his newly acquired toys, my mother picked me up from the party, and that was that.

I know his father meant well – how tragic would it have been if one of us had fallen out of that hunting stand.  We didn’t mean to cause any problems or trouble.  We just saw something that looked like fun.  We were just young kids who were having fun at a birthday party and, for those short moments, that’s what happened.  We knew that we had made a cardinal mistake.  We had gone where no kid was supposed to go..

A few weeks later, my parents moved from Greenfield Center to Corinth, and I moved from one elementary school to another.  I promised I would stay in touch with my friends, but it never came to pass.  In fact, for the life of me, I couldn’t even remember birthday boy’s name for this blog post.

Sometimes old memories may start out with childhood innocence …

And they may have some semblance of regret and wistfulness …

But the best childhood memories combine those concepts, while adding something to build upon.

I did remember that hunting stand, and for a few moments I contemplated what my friends and I envisioned as a metal treehouse.  I always thought of treehouses as structures that were made of wood and constructed to be part of the forest itself – maybe a few planks nailed into the tree trunk to act as an ersatz ladder; maybe a set of floorboards that span the branches; a few father-and-son constructed walls and some tar-paper-covered planks for a roof.

But a metal treehouse – that would allow the best of both worlds.  You could climb up and stay in it for as long as you chose – and if you had to move away, it could be dis-assembled and re-assembled in your new home, and you could still have your own elevated, hidden sanctum sanctorum where you could camp on a starry night or hide out from bad times at home.

I could have used a metal treehouse in my life.

Sometimes, with these blog posts, I actually have a metaphorical one today.

And that’s a good thing.