A few years ago we built a walking trail along the waterfront of our home. The trail follows the water through the woods, over an old railroad bridge and a boardwalk, and through a cranberry bog to a tiny island. In the middle of this smallest of small islands is a single large pine tree. Although it was a perfect place for a tree house, there was no one to enjoy it on a regular basis. A granite bench facing the water was placed at the base of this majestic tree, but a tree house was never built.
Another tree house opportunity came up this spring, when our daughter mentioned that it would be a great idea to build one for her girls. There was a good place in their backyard. A few weeks later, with a design chosen and measurements taken, their grandfather and I, aka Papa and Nana, headed along Interstate 95 to surprise Morgan and Madison with our birthday idea. Morgan was turning 11 and Madison age 8. It was a busy day as usual: Madison had her First Communion that morning, so only later could we share the tree house surprise. By the end of the day, a platform 10 feet above the ground was built, with two solid oak trees supporting the structure. We left that night with a big stump removed, the ground cleared, and a solid base for the tree house in place. We were now committed to the project. Papa had reminded me more than once that this was not a weekend job.
Two weeks later was the scheduled outdoor birthday celebration for Morgan and Madison, but the weather forecasted a total washout so the event was postponed. Papa used that weekend to construct the tree house inside our garage, many miles from the prepared site.
The following weekend was Memorial Day weekend, and Papa rented a U-Haul. He disassembled the tree house, and with the help of our son-in-law Scott and daughter Heather, loaded tools and the large pieces of the tree house into the U-Haul on Sunday night. Nana played with the two granddaughters until they left for home that night. Early Memorial Day morning, Papa and I headed along Interstate 95 again for a day of assembling. At the end of the day, the tree house was in place on the platform, and after the granddaughters had a chance to inspect it, we headed home.
A few days later our daughter and son-in-law were off for an anniversary trip to Panama and I was babysitting the two granddaughters. After several days Papa and I packed up the minivan and Jeep Commander with luggage, tools, pre-cut lumber, and the girls. We headed along Interstate 95 once again with the tree house project foremost on our minds. In the next three days the roof went on and railings were built for the deck and stairs. Trim was added to the four windows and the door was hinged into place. It began to look like a tree house. Papa went home tired, yet relieved that he could see the end in sight.
One more time Papa drove along Interstate 95, this time to put up staging and shingle the roof of the tree house. Heather helped with the roofing. Latches were put on the windows and a bird house was placed in one of the trees. The tongue and groove board walls were ready for sealer and Heather and the granddaughters took out paint brushes. Busy little hands went to work while their minds were on how to decorate it and how much fun was planned for the tree house in the summer days ahead.
A 5th grade friend of Morgan had a wall plaque designed as a birthday gift for the girls. The plaque reads: “In memory of Uncle Mike ~ Morgan and Madison’s Tree House”. A perfect gift, don’t you think–for Uncle Mike was the talented carpenter who made so many projects for his beloved nieces, and he had promised to make a tree house for them. The plaque was hung on the door with loving thoughts of the joy and laughter that will rock these walls, just as Michael had brought so much laughter and happiness to so many every day until his recent sudden and untimely death. His joy remains bright, his laughter rings out from places near and far, and the tree house brings him close to our hearts.
-June 24, 2014