Yesterday's Magazette

10 – Tree House Memories

Tree House Memories


By Beckie A. Miller


I can still vividly envision its long branches swaying lazily in the warm Northern California breeze. Those arms, at least to a child’s eyes, seemed to stretch for miles, weaving in and out, forming a cascading canopy of shade for creatures great and small, four-legged and two-legged alike.

When the great fig tree was heavily laden with its bounty of fruit, it created fun play for the seven of us siblings, who enjoyed throwing the figs much more than eating them. Someone before us had built an exceptional tree house amidst the enormous trunk and outspreading branches. It provided perfect cover for bombarding unsuspecting siblings with the ripe and incredibly mushy fruit! It was our safe place to escape and to simply be children.

As the wind whistled through the dancing branches, I imagined myself flying like Peter Pan, or flitting in and out like Tinkerbell among the blue skies and wispy clouds. The tree house often became my castle, and I the princess awaiting her prince. Somehow, my daydreams were always of being rescued by, of course, a handsome prince. The tree house was my refuge and escape hatch from an often troubled world.

The acreage surrounding the house held other wonders, but nothing as grand or huge as the fig tree.  Grapevines lazily sprawled across wire, forming their own concealing canopies, and a place for me to hide from the blazing sun and my siblings and sneak the sweet, juicy grapes. Mom always warned us not to eat anything without permission, but do you really think seven kids actually obeyed this? All I know is when she got around to making pies from the fruit and cookies from the nuts, some of the trees were nearly barren. Seven kids can eat a lot.

There were pear and nectarine trees, as well as almond and pecan. What a feast for kids who lived with having little. It was like having your own backyard refrigerator and the door was always wide open.  Dad’s salary as an enlisted soldier, and his pride in accepting handouts, did not always cover feeding his own little army. Going to bed hungry was a scenario played out many nights in our home. Mom must have counted the pieces of bread left to make sure if anyone sneaked some during the night, she would know, because she always did know. I understand now that she had limited means from which to make the food last for her big family.

When we finally had to leave California, as my father’s military career never kept us in one place very long, I cried harder than anytime before. I wished we could have stayed there forever. Whatever the reasons, I felt safer and happier in that place. Never again did I recall sharing that same peace and serenity as a family. No place was ever as special, and nowhere else from my childhood has ever evoked such pleasant memories.

Nowadays, I have, in a sense, recreated that time for my own family. We have an acreage — a small ranch — next to a mountain and open desert. On our property many fruit trees abound. Orange, grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, peach, apricot, as well as pomegranate bushes landscape our yard. But in order to survive the desert’s harsh elements it is different tending to them than it was in California.  Eventually, we added horses, rabbits, dogs and a stray chicken — even a tame dove for a brief time graced our lives, following us each time we went outside and coming to the window to look in on us if we didn’t. Animals were the only thing missing from my favorite childhood place in California.

On our desert oasis, the only thing missing from my childhood favorite place is a tree house, although, not many trees are found in the lower deserts of Phoenix, Arizona, big enough to build one as impressive as the one in California. We do, however, sport one large mulberry that could do the job adequately. If I can just talk my husband into building the one he has talked about often, my children could find a place to play and daydream away lazy, sweltering afternoons.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every child had a special place to escape and to dream, whiling away hours in fantasy? If my husband does get around to building our tree house, I will probably climb up there as often as the kids. After all, adults need a place to escape, too.

In the tree house, I could daydream away my troubles, ignoring the responsibilities of the adult world, watch the wind-blown branches swaying to and fro, imagining that I could fly away. I already have my prince and no longer need rescuing.

Vol. 36 No. 3 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Fall – 2009

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