first, you build a treehouse


There was an article in a magazine called The Atlantic a couple of issues ago called “The Overprotected Child” that was about how we don’t seem to give kids the freedom to go out in the world and just play…even just play with and around things that we might think are a little hazardous.

We keep things relatively locked down now…nobody’s going to get hurt on our watch…stay away from that pile of used lumber…you might scratch yourself on a rusty nail…..

Anyway, in the article, they’d put together what they called an “adventure park” where kids could get dirty and experience some things that they might otherwise have been shepherded away from.

That’s crazy that we get to read articles like that now.

I remember building tree forts out of lumber we “scavenged” from the building sites in our neighborhood.

Plywood balanced in the crotch of the biggest oak we could find….two or three 16p nails holding the whole thing steady…way up in the tree…maybe 10 or even 20 feet up….slats nailed to the trunk so that we’d have something to hold onto when we were climbing up to our sanctuary.

I don’t remember even telling any adult where we were going…I’m sure we didn’t tell them what we were doing.

I don’t remember when that changed.

I think that we had , what? 4 channels on the television and during the week…unless we snuck in to be terrified by “Dark Shadows”….there really wasn’t anything on to distract us from the building project at hand. There wasn’t anything good to watch…so we played.

Rickety treehouses….creaking and shifting in the wind, popping nails and renewed efforts to just make the whole thing stay up off the ground for one more day.

Wondering when it was all going to fall apart was part of the adventure.

Just staying up in the tree somehow was the victory.

I don’t think that we had any illusions of being great architects…we just wanted to nail something to a big tree.

I remember a fort …one of the original underground houses…that we built/dug by the railroad tracks.

The soil was so sandy that the digging was easy. We dug a hole big enough for about four kids, and put a piece of plywood over the top of the hole, and then covered the plywood with sandy soil and indigenous plants to disguise where we were.

Looking back now, I suppose that our camouflage would have made it really hard for the authorities to locate the site of the cave-in.

We’d climb down in this hole and hang out.

It was a “simple pleasure”.

When the train would go by, the ground would shake and the sides of the hole would kind of flake off, dust covering us a little…and we’d look at each other like we wondered if anyone else thought this escapade might end badly.

Well, I’m here to tell you...that I’m here to tell you..that nothing caved in by the railroad tracks and that we all survived that unsupervised and completely dangerous activity.

Kids need dirt and some minor dangers to know what it feels like to survive being a kid.

I need to figure out how to sponsor my own little batch of “treehouse warriors”….

but sometimes I get so nervous….

What if they fell or something?! 

Here’s another thought….and then I’ve got to go.

What if they didn’t fall? That’s a good lesson to learn, too…that sometimes, you don’t fall.

Here’s a link to the Atlantic article

About Peter Rorvig

I'm a non-practicing artist, a mailman, a husband, a father...not listed in order of importance. I believe that things can always get better....and that things are usually better than we think.

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