A house in a tree? That’s fine with me

For the record, I was against building the tree house from day one. My husband had been hatching a plan for a while, and pitched the idea for an amazing tree house when he felt the time was right. It was a warm June day when there wasn’t much going on and the yard work was finished. He said the big tree in the yard would be perfect for a tree house. It would be a fun project for him and our 7-year-old to do together, he said, and it would be so much fun for the kids to play in.

I grimaced. I won’t lie; I hated the idea.

I imagined how the tree house would look (ugly). I imagined how much the lumber would cost (expensive). And I imagined who would be climbing a rickety old ladder to great heights (three short children).

My husband could read my expression.

“You hate the idea,” he said.

“Not hate. Just not love,” I said.

I mentioned my reasons: ugly, expensive, dangerous. He seemed hurt.

“What makes you think it will be ugly?” he asked.

I referenced an early wood-working project 10 years ago in which my beloved hung a closet bar in the laundry room that looked like a middle school shop project.

He reminded me of the sleek, modern bench he built last winter for our mud room that looked like something out of a high-end furniture catalog.

Hmm. He had me there. His example was more recent. And more relevant. And he was really, really excited. Ugly and expensive and dangerous be darned — go ahead, I told him.

He went to the lumber yard and dropped a not-so-meager amount on two-by-fours and large sheets of plywood. He moved it all into the garage. And then the lazy June day became unexpectedly busy and he had to run off.

There was not another lazy day in June, July or August. Summer was gone, and there was no tree house. I was relieved.

When fall arrived, so did a perfect day with nothing to do. My husband called up a friend and asked for help. He wanted to start and finish the tree house all in a weekend, knowing full well it would be busy again before he knew it.

The two of them began building. They started with supports, followed by a plywood floor that surrounded the stump.

When I went outside to look at their progress, I discovered the tree house was tall. Very, very tall. I climbed the extension ladder and Brian helped me onto the platform. We looked out across the neighborhood. The neighbor’s tree house, which before seemed so lofty, was below us. The roof of our house was below us, too. How high was this thing?

“You do remember that our children are 1, 4 and 7, right?” I teased.

He admitted it was higher than he had imagined. But he promised to make it safe. The next day he added a substantial railing around the perimeter, and the day after that he and Jude were building an actual staircase with handrails instead of a ladder.

When it was all done, and the last nail had been driven, the tree house was beautiful. It was not ugly at all. It was not cheap, either, but I preferred pretty to cheap. Most importantly, of course, it seemed safe — at least safe enough for my non-daredevil children.

As a finishing touch, Brian wrapped the entire tree house in white Christmas lights and added a few outdoor chairs for seating.

On a recent warmish evening, the five of us got ice cream and ascended the staircase into our very high, but roomy, tree house. We sat in the dark, licking our ice cream cones as Christmas lights twinkled around us. There was talking and teasing and giggling.

It was not just a pretty tree house, I decided; it was something very special.

At that moment, I felt thankful for being wrong. I felt thankful for my husband, who had a vision and didn’t let naysayers (read: me) deter him. And I felt thankful for my kids, who give us excuses to be kids again ourselves.

Tree houses are only as good as the people who spend time in them. This one’s amazing.

Amy Palser

Amy Palser writes personal stories readers can relate to: tales of family and friends, of childhood and rites of passage, of fantastic people and ordinary things. Her column appears each Saturday. She is the Tribune's managing editor.

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