The front door flies open, I take one step on the porch and then launch myself into the yard with the speed of a 9 year old kid who has just eaten five dollars worth of concession stand candy. This consisted of Airheads, Gummi Worms, Baseball Gum, Laffy Taffy, Snickers, giant pixie sticks, licorice ropes, Big League Chew, M & M’s, Shocktarts, Tear Jerkers and Reese’s Pieces. The sugar rush shows as I crash down on my knee and do a summersault, only to then leap up and rush down the front hill. Next came the ravine, a long path that went downhill and was filled with leaves. I mean like three feet of leaves for the whole stretch. The battle was fierce, and I wasn’t wearing shoes. Who wears shoes in the summer? There is the fear that a mouse will be buried in the expanse of fallen foliage, the fear that Dad may have tossed an old thorn bush down in the ravine which could impale my tender foot at any moment. There is the sheer depth of the pit itself, as my 4’3 body barely sticks out above the mass gathering of brown and yellow leaves. In certain areas I just sink down so deep I have to climb my way out. Eventually there’s a halt to the chaos. It ends at an old log which is just sitting there, boasting that it once used to stand upright as a mighty tree. I don’t give it much thought. I pass over it like a balance beam and leap across a small puddle that’s in front of me. Then I am there. I have finally made it to my clubhouse.
It isn’t really a clubhouse and my sisters would laugh if they heard me refer to it as that. In all honesty I had tried to once construct a shelter, but being 9, I had limited skills in woodshop and my father was somewhere off drinking, off building something for someone else, off being my father like he was suppose to be doing. No it’s not a shelter, but instead it’s a tree. A perfect climbing tree. The first branch was too high though, so I strategically leaned a log up against the lowest branch creating a ladder of sorts. What’s funny is that the log actually had several knots up the side, and hence, almost looked like a ladder or stairway. I run to the ladder log, I make sure it’s sturdy and then I circle around to the other side of the tree. The bar swing. It was my Dad’s one contribution to the clubhouse. A stringy yellow rope connects to both sides of a wooden bar like a trapeze, enabling anyone, anyone who I allow of course, to swing through the wind, to hang upside down, to become, for a brief moment, someone else. Someone who doesn’t have to touch the ground. I reach out, grab the bar with my hands and begin my ritualistic routine. It’s well crafted and planned out. I could probably put music to it. Swing forward, legs up over the bar, pull around, land in a sitting position (where at this point it’s key to increase the swinging speed otherwise the whole routine will end), throw myself backwards, hang by my legs, dangling back and forth, hair wildly upside down, then the pull up, you have to reach hard, flip your legs out, carry the spiral and accelerate your body over the top of the bar only to land so gently on your feet. With a bow and imaginary applause, I feel like I’ve accomplished something grand. I turn, I SPLASH!!! That’s the one problem down here. The puddles for some reason don’t dry up. My feet are solid brown as I examine them for leeches, not that leeches live in puddles, but you never know when one leech could decide to break the mold and reside right by my tree house in one of those holes gathering excess H2O. No Leeches.
I embark for the ladder log, making my way up each knot with care and then pulling myself into the lower branches. My path is now not se tout for me, but instead exists in a variety of patterns. I think that’s why I enjoy climbing trees so much, I have this freedom to choose how I reach my destination. I can be direct, or I take the long path which requires strength and speed, the ability to drop through branches and most of all, not be afraid of heights. I choose the direct route for now, still a bit tired from the rope routine, and I cross over to the thickest branch on the entire tree. I balance myself on the limb, slowly taking steps outward. There’s a branch right above my head which I could hold for support, but I know I am better then that. I don’t need the safety it provides. I continue out along the fat branch, I get to the middle and look down. The rope swing is tied up here, it’s yellow string embedded down into the wood now from so much use. I pass it, the branch begins to get thinner and the end of it begins to curve down with my wait. When you go out far enough, it creates a clearing and you can see through all the leaves. You can see the entire baseball field which I live next to. I take a glance, but I am not interested in the team that is playing. I retreat back to the base of the tree, and I begin to climb. Falling is not an option, and I dream of making it all the way to the top someday. I reach for the next highest branch, pull myself up and rest for a minute. There’s an old Crown Royal bag nestled in the crevice of this branch and the tree’s base. It contains coins which I am saving so I can buy materials for the clubhouse. I don’t have anything to contribute today, instead I bought candy. I pass the purple and yellow bag, rising higher into the mass of branches. It’s delicate work, but you can’t be slow. You must keep moving, reaching higher. “Adam, dinner is ready, come inside!” My mom. I wonder what she cooked for dinner? I dangle from one branch, release and land, I climb down the levels until I am back at the ladder log. I won’t climb down it though. That’s not what it’s there for. Instead I reach for the nearest branch, I hold on with my arms and I throw myself out of the tree, yelling a battle cry and landing on my feet. I race up a side hill, not wanting to keep Mom waiting. the ravine would take to long to maneuver through. I end at the picnic table on the side of our house, I round the corner, leap onto the porch and smile.