His flip flop had caught in the crux of the tree where he was standing. I pulled free the pinched sandal and slipped it on his extended foot. Once on the ground and free from my arms, he already had the redbud sized up. His young hands tight around the narrow limbs, muscles tugged and hoisted up legs and feet as he had before. He appealed and I lifted him down a second time to the ground. Flip flops were stuck in the crux.
His aunt Jan Jan suggested he try a young maple in the backyard. Our great-nephew found more room this time and was able to lean his back against the ascending trunk.
When I was in grade school, my parents had let me climb the oak tree in our yard. I discovered back then there was nothing like being up in a tree, confident, knowing how to go up and down the ladder-like branches. To feel the drift and sway of branches in the breeze. I felt this boy lacked that joy, a cautious parent kept him indoor too much, he was not given free reign to make forts for himself.
In contrast, I thought of the boyhood activities two brothers did in a Carl Sandburg story:
"They went barefooted and got stickers in their hair and teased cats and killed snakes and climbed apple trees and threw clubs up walnut trees and chewed slippery ellum. They stubbed their toes and cut their feet on broken bottles and went swimming in brickyard ponds and came home with their backs sunburnt so the skin peeled off." from How Googler and Gaggler Came Home with Monkey Wrenches, Carl Sandburg
THAT NIGHT, after the nephew returned home, the WILD WINDS took down three trees in our side yard. Double click to see images bigger.
The redbud where he had stood earlier that afternoon split under the weight of the bigger tree.
The next morning, I surveyed the mess. Protected by the long sleeves and jeans, work boots, gloves and face mask, I cleared limbs with my hand saw. Out of curiosity I waded head down past the leaves and into the middle of it all. More limbs came down. I cleared a space between the two trunks. It reminded me of forts I had built. That feeling of being hidden from view. That was when THE IDEA came to me.
Three minutes. Horizontal trunks to climb on. God had dropped these trees in our yard to become an outdoor fort.
Over the next few days I loaded the truck, and hauled debris out to the city burn pile. I carried short stump trunks into the fort space. I climbed up on the lower branches to see if they would support my weight and support his weight. They did. When a week had passed, the boy was able to be with us again all day. Instead of flimsy flip flops, he had strong sneakers on his feet.
The morning started cold. He and I played the matching color matching number game UNO and the Aggravation marble board game until it had warmed up outside. What would he think about the fort? How would he respond?
He made my day!!!!
"There's the window, there's the back door, there's a room," when he first saw it. He wanted to make walls. Hoped to knock down a broken limb, he whacked it with a stick. He walked on top of the trunk to the uprooted end and peered over the pond water and the duckweed. "There is water below me. I see two frogs," he said. He told me he was a gorilla.
One minute. His souvenirs.
He was a fort builder after all. "I built this fortress," he said when he was all finished. He called it "The Fortress of the Egyptian Gorilla."
Him, arms clasping a stump trunk to his chest, waddling away. Returning for the next stump. All four ending up where he wanted them to be. "Go find them Uncle Karl."
He selected a wiggly shaped log with spike knobs, where the branches used to jut out. Talked his uncle into helping move the back end of the wonky dead trunk as he managed the front end. I called the log "the prehistoric petrified eel." He made the "pretend eel" a bridge he walked on up to a higher branch.
Beforehand I had made a wide north entrance for him to use. That day he took liberty to hide the entrance with branches from the debris pile. To reach the inner room, he explained... "you had to go in the back door and open the front door. Because the front was hidden to outsiders. Camouflage."
The boy delighted. Singing to himself.
Three minutes. Him fitting branches in place.
Working up a sweat. Making it work.
I was so proud of him.
Thank you god for the fort you
dropped in our yard !!!!!!!
Two minutes. Parting shot. Stump trunks revealed.