I was challenged to share what it was in my early life that made the hours fly by and shaped what my future passion would be.
This is my offering:
I was seven years old when my father built the tree-house. It was more of an eight-foot square platform held up by two Chinese Tallow trees. Chinese Tallow trees do not live long. Their branches bend and twist rather than break when they are young trees. The older ones are brittle to a fault.
Originally imported to Texas as an experiment to see if the tallow could be extracted and help the candle industry, the tallow trees were a failure. The electric light bulb gained popularity over candles, and the tallow in those Tallow trees was impossible to extract commercially. The tallow project was abandoned but the trees multiplied and spread. Now the trees are so prolific in the wild that native trees struggle to prosper. Despite gorgeous fall foliage, the Chinese Tallow is considered a pest tree.
My first remembrance of a wasp encounter happened in that tree-house, or, I should say, under it. The main entrance and exit was by way of a ladder that went straight up from the ground and through a square hole cut in the bottom. There was a board door that could be dropped over the hole to protect from invading pirates, gorillas, or just brothers in general. Sometimes brother Jon would beat me to it and lock me out. The only other way to enter was to climb through the trees and scramble over the “side” to the platform.
Wasps are quiet at their nest. They set sentries as lookouts who will warn the hive of danger. They are the first line of defense. They have levels of “buzz”. The louder the buzz, the more danger you are in of getting stung. I learned this because when I grabbed the branch next to the hive to haul myself over the side of the tree-house, the wasps exploded with buzz and began stinging me. I slip-fell out of the tree losing most of the wasps that were after me on the way down. I don’t even think that the stings registered until later because of the rush of adrenalin from the fall.
Thus I learned to watch out for wasps in trees.
Years of days went by – or perhaps it was days of years, who knows how childhood passes – Jon and I wore that tree-house to splinters. That palace in the trees kept all our secrets and stories.
Perhaps we loved the tree-house life for its order, because our home life was not so orderly, or because there, we could escape whatever plans were laid for us by parents who thought we needed plans.
I will tell you this, even when Jon was allowed friends in a neighborhood full to brimming with boys, I was never lonely. I found my friends in books. I took books up in the tree-house. Every day after school, I took a book into the tree-house and spent hours up in the air, reading.
Nancy Drew cleverly unmasked the bad guy in my tree-house. Mowgli learned the language of the snake tribe in my tree-house. A tiny naked baby (Tarzan) was discovered in a tree-house by none other than GORILLAS! The scent of cinnamon and curry wafted all the way from India (Kim), I visited China in the 1600’s (The Black Rose), I heard horses stampeding across the vast prairies (Fury, The Black Stallion), and came face to face with a murderous black mamba snake (Bring ’em Back Alive) in my tree-house.
I relished the danger and intrigue inside my books, but … but I could not escape my chores. I had to descend to ground level to eat, you see. There was a pull, like a great suctioning from that “inside” world of whatever I was reading, to enter the shrill world of the now. To this day when I read a good book I feel that pull of good story. Don’t you?
All those years of reading in trees taught me about story. Despite my “labels” as day-dreamer in school or scatter-brained at home, this head-in-the-clouds-girl spent many much-too-short hours in the trees learning the pattern of good story. As a result, I’m an author.
Now I can share good stories with you, my gentle reader.