The Tree Fort

I wish that I could say that it was only yesterday that I was romping through my grandparent’s backyard, carefree and full of joy but, one look in the mirror, tells me that there have been a lot of yesterdays that have gone by since that time of my life.

Weekends were something that my brothers and myself used to look forward to because it meant that we’d be spending it with our grandparents.  Nothing could ever compare to the days and nights that we spent at their home and there’s so many times that I wish there were time machines that could transport us back to spend even one more hour in that time frame.

I don’t really remember why but, it seemed that our parents would go away frequently for the weekend.  Nothing tickled us pink more than to know that our weekends would be spent in a place that I can only describe as “heaven” for kids.

Friday after school, we’d pack up some clothes and our toothbrushes and be dropped off where Nana would be waiting with outstretched arms and huge welcoming hugs.  The smell of something yummy cooking on the stove or in the oven, would be wafting through the air to greet us as we entered the front door.  Somehow, we just knew it was going to be a great weekend from the second we stepped in.

Nana never said the word, “no” to us.  Even if she had to stop us from doing something that wasn’t good for us, she’d somehow manage to work our minds off of our troubled actions and onto something good.  We never felt like we were ever doing anything bad and yet, we’d know that we weren’t supposed to be doing one thing or another because she’d gently get our attention shifted with a simple, “let’s do this instead so that….” and fill in the blanks with a simple yet, gentle and effective reason.

Don’t get me wrong.  Nana wasn’t exactly totally gentle in her language in front of us.  She could sling some pretty good “cuss words” at our grandfather when she needed to but, never at us.

I remember one time where we were attempting to build a tree fort in an old elm tree that stood in their backyard.  We were dragging pieces of 2 x 4’s up into the tree with us and placing them across two outstretched branches to create a base on which we’d sit and drink ice cream floats, legs dangling over the side, looking down at the world.

The wind had picked up quite fiercely with heavy rain clouds above head, moving in and Nana spotted the change, urging us to abandon our pursuits for the evening.  When a bolt of lightning lit up the sky and a clap of thunder made us jump, rumbling through the tree we were in, we were only too happy to quickly climb down out of the tree and follow her suggestion.

For the next several hours, the skies lit up like a blinking neon sign as we sat safely indoors, looking out through their big front picture window (as they called it), munching on Cheesies and sipping on homemade root beer.

As the storm reached its peak, we all jumped as we heard the sound of a heavy thud and breaking glass at the back of the house.  We all ran to see what had happened, standing frozen with fear when we realized that the winds had picked up the 2 x 4 strips of wood from the tree branches and had come crashing down through our grandfather’s greenhouse glass roof!

My brother, Ray and I, stood there, unable to breathe, looking at six or more pieces of wood that stood on end on an angle amongst the shattered glass fragments, rain pouring through the now, gaping hole in the ceiling.  It wouldn’t have been half as bad had the greenhouse been a single standing structure in and of itself but, it was adjoined to the back of the house that led to the back bedroom where we were to sleep.

Not a word was said by anyone as Ray and I covered our mouths with our hands, waiting to be scolded for having left the wood up in the tree.  A minute seemed like an eternity during that moment of pure but silent disbelief as we looked at both of our grandparent’s faces, not really wanting to hear what we assumed they were both thinking.

“Well,” Nana said with a sigh and a smile, seemingly knowing we were waiting to be scolded, “that’s that.  What are we going to do…stand here and stare at it?  Let’s go watch some tv.”

Stunned, we slowly turned to follow her out into the kitchen, leaving our grandfather, standing, mumbling something like, “son of a bitch” under his breath and shaking his head.

It wasn’t until we were in the living room, tv turned up loudly for us that Nana told us she’d be right back and headed back towards the kitchen.  While the tv was loud, Nana was just a tad louder.

“What are you waiting for you old ass?” she yelled out to our grandfather, who was till mumbling inaudibly in the back room.  “You gonna stand there staring at it until we need to build an ark or, are you going to get your ass moving and fix it?”

I guess my grandfather was still in shock because while he had some “cuss words” of his own to utter, he spent the next two hours out in the rain, taking out the wood and strapping some sort of tarp to the top of the broken roof.

By the time we went to bed, the rain had stopped, crickets were chirping and the only sound we could hear was our grandfather, who had been kicked out of his bed for us to sleep in, snoring on the living room couch.

The only other sound we heard…was Nana, closing the bedroom door and calling our grandfather a “Stupid Old Bastard” under her breath as she crept back into her bed beside ours.

The following weekend, our grandfather helped us nail the boards to the tree and didn’t say a word as Nana watched his every move, almost daring him to utter anything that might upset us.

I think he knew that when it came to us, she’d win because he never said a wrong word to us.  For that we were grateful but, we’d also learned what not to do.





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