Have you ever had a special place to hang out with friends? The park? The alley behind your house? Your friend's house? How about a tree fort? When I was in grade school my dad and older brother, Matthew, built us a tree fort. Except it wasn't really in a tree; it was on stilts.
As far as I can remember the whole fort was about 5 feet by 10 feet. It contained a ladder leading up to a trap door in the corner of the fort. Two of the side windows were permanently open because of the slant of the roof. The other two windows were hinged and could be held open by a board pried into place. There was indoor outdoor carpeting that completed the homey feel. I remember chasing Nathan and his friends out of the place with a broom and threatening to lock them out if they didn't clean up after themselves. I now find irony in this statement coming from the child whose parents nicknamed her 'Pigpen.' Remember I was a challenge growing up.
I can remember hanging out in the fort and having sleepovers in there with Julie McComber and Nita Norton. On more than one occasion we would sneak out and meet up with other friends from school, who along with us, weren't opposed to breaking their parents rules. One night we got caught on St. Theresa's property by a police officer. I talked the cop into speaking with my older brother who was 18 and a legal adult rather than talking to my parents about the whole ordeal (in the middle of the night). I'm not sure which was worse...having to wake Matthew up and allow him to hold this over my head for the next 4 years or listen to him complain as he drove everybody to their respective homes at 3:00 A.M. Remember, I was a challenge growing up.
The party life in the tree fort came to an abrupt halt one summer afternoon. Nathan and his friend, Kevin Watson, were playing up in the fort...with fireworks. Well, I suppose you can just about guess the rest of the story. The fire truck came and doused the tree fort as well as the side wall of our house that luckily did not get hot enough to catch fire. Apparently, my little brother was a challenge growing up, too!
It seems about the same time the tree fort burnt down, my relationships with those friends cooled until the embers were finally extinguished. I've always wondered if it was because they attended Gerard High School and I went on to Arcadia High School? Or if their parents wised up and told the girls they weren't allowed to hang out with me anymore..remember, I was a challenge growing up.