… Minus a reverberating PA system and the façade of Yankee Stadium, I may know a bit how Lou Gehrig must have felt as “The Luckiest Man on Earth”. … The neatest part is that so many of you can feel the very same way and not diminish my joy one bit… In two weeks our little family will hit a rite of passage that we have been preparing for for 18 years. Here it comes – ready or not … We’re Ready … I think!
Any man who, after 50+ years, cannot look back on a collection of “why in the world did I ….” or “how could I have been so dumb to …” better get busy “screwing up” or he might end up having lived an “oatmeal life”. PLEASE have such a list that you keep in a private place and refer to in reflective moments … if only figuratively. I compiled most of “my list” from 25-40. By the time Kid came on board I had touched hot stoves and wet paint and roller skated in buffalo herds. I was “worldly” if not all that “wise”. “Being Daddy” was the next logical challenge.
There are a handful of Rites of Passage that “normal” middle-class American families go through … marriage, childbirth, first steps, first tooth, first day of school, drivers license, etc etc. They are each very special with each family but in the great scheme of life … they’ve all pretty much been done before by gazillions of families … a gazillion and one coming up.
The current Casa BL is the only home that Kid has ever known. My nomadic quest for the Holy Grail of Corporate Success ended upon her birth. We closed on this house a week before she was born.
Every one of her 18 Christmases has been spent in this house with the tree in the same corner of the same “great room”. “Her room” has evolved from a crib, lamb wallpaper, and assorted beanie babies, my little ponies, bunches of dolls, and a purple Care Bear to today’s computer desk, digital printer, Breakfast At Tiffany’s poster, and Ipod stand. The two constants are Kid … and a purple Care Bear.
Casa BL is modest by most standards but just right for the three of us. We have room for the privacy that each of us needs yet we are never so far apart that a raised voice “you two OK?” is quickly returned with “yes, I’m fine” and “me too”.
Put a family in the same place for 18 years and it gets “lived in”. The wall by the laundry room “where Dad put his fist thru the sheetrock” in 1993 got patched over and painted in ’98 but we all know exactly where it was. Two inches to the right and Dad’s fist hits a stud and maybe Dad never becomes “a prolific Internet Legend”.
And next to the pantry … “The How Tall Wall”. Actually it is the molding around the pantry door. PLEASE PLEASE tell me you have a “How Tall Wall” in your house. From “age four thru 18” there are “how tall” marks in magic marker up that molding strip. At the very top of course is a mark that says “Dad”. It is 6’4” off the floor.
If you look out our kitchen window, you see a two-acre wooden “glade” that affords us total privacy from the world. A tornado decimated our “glade” in 1988 but Mother Nature regrew it “gladier” than ever. About 20’ into “the glade” is “The Treehouse”. It’s called Kid’s Treehouse but it’s really Dad’s Treehouse.
Kid and I did “Y Indian Princess” in 1997 (before the PC Jackasses “de-Indianized” it). Maybe that was my impetus. Regardless I was compelled to “build a treehouse”. We had this ideal setting and I simply had a cathartic urge to do it. I did not use “a kit”. Unlike Noah, God did not give me the number of cubits or the threat of a global flood to stimulate me.
Nothing in my background prepared me for this. In fact I had given away my Black & Decker boy toys eight years earlier with the same conviction that a reformed alcoholic cleans out his liquor cabinet. I was power tool free. I did it all with hand tools. That WoodWright dude on PBS would have been proud of me.
I had sort of a plan in mind but I modified it as I went along. I never could remember … was it “measure twice, cut once” … or “measure once, cut twice, cuss a lot”? It took me about three weeks. There is no other treehouse like it on Earth.
Kid never said she “wanted it”. I never asked her if she did. Maybe I was afraid she would have said no. I never asked Mizzus if she “wanted” that wall-mounted ironing board for Christmas in 1995 either. I SHOULD have asked that time.
The main deck of “Dad’s Treehouse” is eight feet off the ground and about 12’x12’. There is a “crow’s nest” on top accessible via a ladder from the main deck. From the “crow’s nest” one is about 20’ off the ground.
I’m suppose to tell you that Kid and her chums spent countless hours in the treehouse playing all sorts of imaginary games and little girl tea parties or Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, or …, or … and once she fell out and broke her arm or chipped a tooth. Nope … it got very little actual use.
We talked about “sleeping out in it” but we never did. “Princess Kid” is “all girl” … nary a chromosome of “tom boy” in her. I never wished her to be “a Mia Hamm” or “a Michelle Wie” or anything except “a happy young lady with bright eyes and a positive self-image”.
… My wish came true!
As the years passed, I occasionally walk out to the treehouse and just stand on the deck amid the spiders and assorted creepy-crawlies that live in the glade. It remains incredibly sturdy considering its jack-leg construction.
As Kid grew into her teens, she would have friends over. They would see the treehouse and ooohhh and ahhh about how cool it was. Most said they never had anything like that. I never knew until this year that her friends were saying those things over the years.
(About 90% of BLSays readers are “daddies” in varying stages of paternal evolution. For those in the more advanced stages, we are pretty much in total synch right now, aren’t we?)
Kid and I spruced it up for her recent “graduation party”. We modified a few things and shored it up. A bug fell down Kid’s shirt while we were sprucing … she bout had a fit. I almost said “this will be here for your kids to play on” but I didn’t.
Mizzus and I have been having “when Kid leaves …” conversations for the past six months or so. They are sporadic and of short duration. There are very sound reasons why those conversations are short.
One evening this Spring as we sat on the back porch she asked “Are you going to leave the treehouse up?” That did not require deep deliberation, “Absolutely”. “Good” she said, “I hoped you would say that.”
Mizzus dreams about a mountain cabin and us moving closer to her native land – Missouri. Maybe we will. I’m just trying to get thru this column. Any further into the future is beyond my comprehension.
I had a life before Mizzus and before Kid. I’ve shared a lot of it with you over the past seven years … and will probably share more in the years to come. Mizzus and I will “have a life” when Kid goes off to seek her destiny.
The first time Kid did a “sleep-over” at a friend’s she was six. We prepared for that midnight phone call … “I wanna come home”. Kid never made that call. In her infinite Mommy wisdom, Mizzus explained it was because she (Kid) was so secure that she was loved and that “our family is always together even when we aren’t together”. We had “given her wings”.
There have been countless “sleep-overs” and three summer camps over the years … and Kid has never made “that call”.
On August 16, Mizzus and I will have Kid all unpacked and checked into Defoe dorm at The University of Missouri. There will be an awkward silence. I will have to go first. I will give her a hug about like Tiger gave his caddy. I will tell her to “kick butt and take names” … and “be a good egg”. Then I will walk away, leaving Kid with her Mommy. I’ve known Mizzus for 23 years … she won’t last long. By the time I get to the car, Mizzus will be walking hurriedly after me with her head down. The parking lot will likely be full of other Moms and Dads trying to be brave and failing miserably at it too.
We will get on I-70 heading east towards home … 1,700 miles away. Within an hour we will get “that call”. It will be Kid “just checking to be sure you guys are OK”. Did she give US wings?
Mizzus and I will either jabber incessantly all the way home … or hardly talk at all. When we get home, Annabelle The Cat will want to know where Kid is. Mizzus will have to tell her. I will need to “spruce up” the treehouse … maybe climbing up in the crow’s nest to look towards the west ….. We’ll be OK.