Monday, April 4, 2011

A Piece of Plywood and an Apricot Tree

It wasn’t much of a tree house, but the time I spent in it, were some of the happiest hours of my entire childhood.

A found sheet of plywood, some 2x4's and a huge apricot tree in our side yard was all we needed. Kenny Meeks and I made a frame to fit the sheet of plywood and nailed it all together. We took half a day to wrestle it about 12 feet up into the tree. We found the perfect spot, it was level and the plywood was wedged solidly into place.

We could think of nothing better than to sit in the shade of our tree on a hot summer day and just talk away the hours. We escaped the violence and craziness of our family lives up there. We also escaped the glue we sniffed and the varnish and lacquer we huffed. Maybe best of all, we escaped the agony of growing up extremely poor in a middle class neighborhood.  For just a little while we could forget that we were the local area’s “white trash.” Not many kids had the guts to say it to our faces, but we knew what they thought.

We talked about anything and everything up there. We would sit and eat the plumpest and juiciest apricots I've ever seen.  It may have only been a tree that grew between the two shacks we lived in, but in that tree, relaxing in the shade, we could have been anywhere...



  1. Everyone needs their own private refuge from the world.

  2. good morning!
    very well written post!
    bitter and sweet memories of our childhood. it's amazing how almost everyone would have the perfect spot to escape when they were little ones...I remember I'd love to sit under my tree, that was an almond tree.

    love the photo, too. :)

    have s great week ahead!

  3. I always wanted a treehouse as a child... yours sounds just perfect :-)

  4. I remember stealing wood from various places and building couple forts, one in the trees and one on the ground. We'd smoke weed in it or steal a little alcohol from our parents and go there to drink it. Ah, memories.

  5. A wonderful memory!
    I can see it all now.
    And just curious...where did you (huck)throw the seeds?;))

  6. Tree houses are definitely an escape. Sorry to hear about those memories.

  7. Patrick--Ah, the respite a tree house can bring. I've spent a lot of hours in them myself. Beautiful post.

  8. That quite a picture you've painted. I can see the two of you sitting there.

  9. I wish I would have had a tree house when I was a kid.

  10. My escape was always the woods. No matter where we lived there always seemed to be some woods around for me and my brother to explore. It kind of makes sense that we both grew up and joined the military.

  11. What a great escape for you. Any idea what happened to Kenny?

  12. I know I've said this before, but you really make me appreciate my childhood. However, now I could really use that tree and plywood!

  13. Sounds like a marvelous place to hide!

  14. Alex - I totally agree with that. It may have only been a single sheet of thick plywood, but it was our refuge.

    Betty - Thanks Betty! Good morning to you also. It looks like we're going to have some nice weather, so I plan on enjoying it!

    Nat - It wasn't much, but it sure did the trick. I wish it had a roof!

    Stephen - When I was a bit younger than that, we also built forts out of "found" lumber.

    Dawn - We used the seeds as ammo for our slingshots. Thanks Dawn!

    Sharon - Thanks Sharon! It was what it was... Makes for good stories now.

    Bossy Betty - Thanks so much! Not too many good memories, but this was truly one of them.

    Tim - I can see us also. I really wish I had some pics from back then.

    Oilfield Trash - I wish I'd had a better one, but it still was a great place for us to go.

    Budd - I'll bet that was great. We had a plenty of places to explore also. Most of it in the city though. I think I joined to get the heck away from home.

    Lolamouse - I lost track of him by high school. I think we both moved away. I often wonder about him.

  15. It sounds idyllic. Glad you have some happy moments to look back on and enjoy.


  16. I'm glad you had SOME highpoints. And apricots as well! Jealous.

    I used to sit up in an apple tree to escape my annoying sister and read. It was wonderful. I miss not being able to climb trees without being arrested. :)

  17. you tell this story so beautifully. I can almost taste those plump, juicy apricots. that tree gifted you in many ways....

  18. A tree house certainly sounds like a great time to me!!!

  19. places like that are one of life's rare treasures. i've always kinda had a thing for secret hideouts, makeshift refuges, or anything that looks like it could be one.

  20. Oh my, you brought tears to my eyes...glad you have some warm memories of those days...As children we just need little things and lot of imagination to keep us content...we lose it as we grow older and cynical.
    Moving post.

  21. I had a cow field that did the same thing for me.

    Great post :)

  22. It sounds like a place of peace Patrick.
    A place for talk and dreams, away from a hard daily life.
    Warm hugs,

  23. You should try to track him down and see what he's up to these days!

  24. everyone should have their own place yours sounded wonderful. mine was always the hay loft of whatever farm dad worked on

  25. I remember my first tree house. It was the pride of our block. Me and four friends took a week to build it every day after school and then by Sunday it was done. Rope ladder and all! Good times.

  26. Riding my bike was freedom for me. But I also had a brother and sister who were the grestest blessing in my life. Playing with them was being in another world.

  27. I've had some places like that. I loved my refuges from the world. They are very much a necessity!!

  28. each time you write agout your childhood, it's emotional and you touch us.

  29. Everyone needs an escape...and for you, and your history of such sadness, such cruelty, I am so, so glad you had this place....

  30. It's amazing to me to see what a rough childhood you had...and yet you turned out to be a decent, seemingly well adjusted very intelligent man. (Yup, that was a compliment...a whole bunch of them, in fact!)

  31. Pat, I love these stories of your childhood antics most of all. You have a way of telling them that makes me feel nostalgiac.

  32. Aw, such a well-written post. I love that it was an apricot tree - that paints such image. The photo there is heartbreaking....

  33. Great post! Though it made me sad to hear the reasons why, I'm glad you had a place to go for refuge away from it all. AND you had a friend to share it with! :)

  34. So glad you had a friend to share it with. Sounds like you guys got each other through some rough times. Are you still in touch with him?

    I always wanted a tree house. Never did have quite the right tree for it.

  35. That's the great thing about being a child, it doesn't take much to stir the imagination and escape to other places.

    It's good to know that you had a place to forget all the troubles around you, at least for a little while.

  36. I'm so glad you found a sweet place to escape the craziness--no, you made it for yourself and your friend. Everyone needs an oasis of peace.

  37. Kenny Meeks. :-) Seems like I knew him.

    And you.

    We grew up in a number of trailer parks. We had a couple tree forts, here and there, and in one location one we built under ground. How safe could THAT have been?!

    I'm so glad you write about your childhood.


  38. This brings so back so many memories of my childhood tree house. We basically nailed a crate into a tree and sat in it. It was perfect until my brother fell out and broke both his arms.

  39. I love treehouses -- there is something so magical about them.

  40. Ms. A - I appreciate surviving mine. I'd like one now also, but I'd probably break my neck getting up and down.

    Mama Zen - We loved it. I'm trying to remember what happned to it.

    Lucy - Thanks Lucy! I did manage to work in a happy moment every now and then.

    TVA - Yep, there were a few of them. We did love those apricots. I also read a lot up there.

    Miss Becky - Thanks so much! That's a great way of putting it.

    Brian - It was more escape than fun, but we really liked it.

    Ven - I'm with you. I'm finally to the point in my life where I feel like my house is the place I can escape to.

    Rekha - Thanks for that. I don't have many warm memories of those days, but this is one of them.

    Kato - It helps us all to have something...

    Berit - Thanks my friend! It was a place of peace for me. Have a great week.

    Tara - I've tried. I thought I found him on FB, and sent a message. No answer though.

    becca - Hay lofts are great places to escape to. I wish I had one now.

    Chuck - That sounds really good! Ours wasn't quite so nice, but we liked it.

    Belle - I'm glad you had them with you. In my house it was every man for themselves. My older brother was more of an enemy than an ally.

    Baby Sister - I'm pretty sure everyone does better in life when they have a "place."

    California Girl - Thanks for the nice words. Lot's to write about, that's for sure...

    Joan - thanks so much Joan. We all find refuge where we can. At that point in my life, it was a sheet of plywood in a tree. It wasn't much, but it was everything.

    Marlene - Of course "well adjusted" is a relative term. Thanks so much for the nice words Marlene! I truly apprecite them.

    Robyn - I wish I could remember things that happened yesterday as well as I can remember things that happened in my childhood.

    Sarah - Thanks so much Sarah. I think that photo pretty much sums up my childhood...

    Pam - thanks Pam! We take our pleasures where we find them. It was bad, but things could have always been worse.

    Megan - thanks! I've tried to find him, but no success yet.

    SQ - Yes, even a few minutes seemed like a good thing. It also helped that we had very little supervision and could explore during the daytime.

    Margaret - Thanks! you are right, everyone needs it!

    Edie - Thanks Edie!

    Pearl - Thanks! I'm sure there were kids like us on the fringes of everywhere. Here's a link to a cave our neighbors dug. It didn't end well.

    Cheeseboy - Ouch! I'll bet your parents weren't too happy about that!

    Talli - Me too! When I hear the word treehouse, I think of a place kids can escape from the world.

  41. I always wanted a tree house - never had one. But this description was so vivid I almost felt I was with you. So thank you :)

  42. Thanks for sharing this story. I always appreciate the way you talk about your childhood with such openness and honesty. Reading about your tree house made me think that every kid should have a special place like that, to get away from it all. Maybe someone could start a foundation that would help low income families and kids in government or foster care build their own forts and tree houses. Knowing how happy having a special place like that made me as a kid, I'd gladly give to such a cause. - G

  43. Cruella - Thanks so much! I appreciate the nice words...

    Georgina - thanks for saying you appreciate it. I'm sure some folks might like a little less detail...
    I think that's a great idea! Our tree house wasn't much, but it sure fit the bill for us!

  44. To many emotions were stirred up by this story for me to list them. But, you took me back to that big old tree in our front yard. It did not have a treehouse but it did and a high Y branch perfect for settling down to read well out of sight of the others in the household. One of my brothers even fell asleep once and managed to get a very long nap before falling to the ground.

    Thanks for the memories.

  45. Elevation, on Plywood station.. above Bully /people/nation = a giant TREE space station! Free from all bug your as nation--which is where you were living at that time!!!!!! Freedom from others to busy to look up, missing the reincarnation of you visitation/ freedom from anyone seeing or knowing such succulent fruit was write above there head at great cheap cost and no strings attacked!

    And you had it ALL- FREE- unhindered to yourselves. Candy, or Swisher Sweets, Have-a-Tampa Jewels and possible a Playboy or two, or a tube of glue!.

    Buy God it was yours*
    Huff, Smoke, Smell, Look--but be MEN in a world of boys! Richer than them all- not something to be taken out! EVER!!!

    I wanna invite please my friend! I'll sit quietly you'll see...and then in the end:You & I'll: Stand by Me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  46. Pat,
    Have you ever seen the movie Now and Then with Rosie O'Donnell and Meg Ryan? This post reminded me of that movie becuase they had a tree house and spent a great deal of time in it...I love that movie. Don't you wish you STILL had a tree house?

  47. Rita - Even without a treehouse, or a sheet of plywood in it, a tree can still be a great place of escape. I'm glad I stirred some memories and emotions in you. I hope they were mostly good ones.

    John - Have-a-Tampa Jewels! There may have been one or two of them up there. This comment is like some of your posts. GREAT!!! You are right, it was OUR place... The Stand by Me reference was perfect!

    Tess - We were a bit old to have those restrictions and I think there was one girl who did come up there a couple of times. Another fringe kid of course...

    Tracy - I did see the movie! I really wish ours had a roof on it also. I really do still wish I had one!

  48. Oh, I was definitely a tree monkey. And branches were horses.

  49. It truly is glad to know that you had an oasis like that at that period of your life.

  50. Lovely post! We have this not much here in India. Thanks for the post. Have a nice day!

  51. I love this post, Pat. Makes me miss the innocence of childhood - something I miss quite often. I too loved life in my tree house.

  52. I always wanted a treehouse. Sounds like yours was pretty amazing.

  53. The consideration of around the world people...
    IT will become the driving force to let Japan be Re-birth.

    Thanks to all of Warm Cordiality.

    From Japan, ruma

  54. Pat, I'm glad you two had a happy place to get away from reality. We all need that sometimes.. even the wealthy have their nightmares too.

    Its not what we have but the way we are treated that matters the most.

    I was lucky to have two loving parents.

  55. These heart-to-heart moments between buddies, free from pain, may have saved you your humanity,if not sanity, Pat. As for Kenny, mayhaps he is still singing the blues? (I know, you would have found him already if it was him.)

  56. Ah the wonderful escapes of trees. I had one too. I used to climb it and look out and ponder the world, and thought, it had to be better than where I was. I was also a working class kid and knew that there was better.

    Ah to dream...

    I want to cheer that kid up in that pic. Glad he turned out so well.


  57. Ah, Pat. Kids always seem to find a way to survive, don't they? Such a tenderly written post, you've managed to speak volumes without the necessity of too much detail. Hugs to that young, lost boy (whio managed to come out just fine in the end).

  58. My neighbour Brina and I nailed a few pieces of old timber and made the best tree house for our children. My daughter now aged 26 still talks about it.

  59. Hello Patrick,
    just looking in here to wish you a nice weekend:-)
    Here it's raining, and snow keep melting:))))
    Hugs from Norway,

  60. While my son sleeps and I try not to blow up the last functional electrical appliance in this house (even the electrical in my car is messed up from the accident and they canpt figure out why) I am trying to catch up. LOVE love love your posts, just don't dare stay on this thing long enough to make intelligent (ok well just plain) comments as my aparently negatively charged body may blow this thing. If you never hear from me again it is because I blew this one up and my son has hidden the body :}

  61. Karin - I loved climbing trees also. I fell once and broke my arm!

    Jesse - Yep! Me too! It really did help. Thanks Jesse.

    Kochuravi - Thanks for stopping by and reading...

    Ally - Thanks so much Ally! There wasn't a lot of innocence in mine, but what there was, I do miss...

    Chris - As amazing as a single sheet of thick plywood can be!

    ruma - Thanks Ruma! Things will return to normal after a while.

    Pam - You are so right! It's not about the money. Thanks Pam. Have a great weekend.

    Francisca - I think you are exactly right. It's sad that he also had such a strange household, but at least we both knew what the other was going through. I don't that that guy is him, but thanks for the link!

    Anthony - I'm right there with you! I knew there had to be a better life. We were well below the "working class" line. Thanks, you did cheer him up!

    Shrinky - Yes, kids are very resilent. I don't get too detailed, because I don't think people would read them. Thanks for the hugs, it took me many years to realize that he was still there.

    Ann - What great family memories for them. Good job doing that for them!

    Berit - Soon, all your snow will be gone (for a while!). You have a nice weekend also.

    Entre Nous - Electicity and fire are apparently, not your friends! Any comment you leave is greatly appreciated!

  62. I've always wondered how it was to have a treehouse. I've dreamed of having one as a kid. Maybe I will build myself one in my future house...:)

  63. I don't think I ever built an actual treehouse, but I loved climbing trees though. I think 30 feet is about as high as I've gone, don't think the branches of those trees would hold me these days - at least not that high up.

  64. We had a Weeping Willow in our back yard. I could climb higher than our 2 storey house and see the whole neighbourhood. Loved it up there and always remember the peace and quiet and "hiddenness" of being so high.

  65. Those memories of places we made to hide away in are some of the best.

  66. Thank you for sharing a special memory.
    I am so glad that your have the chance to go back in your mind to that treehouse with your friend, I can see your smile.

  67. Hi Pat, I enjoyed this post... I think all kids --no matter what their situations--need a special hide-out place... You obviously had a good one.

    When I taught school, I heard some horrible stories about the lives some of the kids were living --once they left school. I felt so sorry for so many of them.. They didn't ask for that kind of life. Neither did YOU.
    So SAD.

  68. I think your photographer's skills are shining in this story. This short story of your past is providing us with such a vivid image!

  69. Such a poignant memory. I could taste the tang of the apricots.


This blog is word verification free.
I love your comments and will do my best to respond to each and every one.