I liked to climb trees. There was this great big maple tree located in the yard of our neighbor Mr. Shelton. Its branches were situated high enough to be impossible for my younger siblings to climb but low enough for me. My friend Karen and I spent many hours after school hanging out in our hideaway, chatting and telling each other our fourth grade secrets. The worst revelation was that we liked the same boy, and then to make matters even more devasting, he liked Karen and would walk her home from school. This was particularly distressful because she and I walked to school together, so I had to watch the romance unfold before my eyes every day.
But back to the tree. I cannot imagine our tree-climbing antics ever occurring in today’s world because of the fear of lawsuits. Mr. Shelton had no children and I do not ever recall having a single conversation with him. I just remember sneaking into his yard to pick his oh so delicious blackberries and climbing his tree when he was not at home. If we fell, our parents would never have considered suing him despite the fact that Grandpa loved to pick up the phone to complain about something. Back then, you never saw commercials on television encouraging you to call your neighborhood lawyer like you do today. My favorite here in Columbia has the catchy slogan, “Don’t scream. Call Akim!” (pronounced Ah-Keem)
Several years later Grandpa built a treehouse. It was not really a house. A better description would be a “tree platform.” One year I spent the summer up in the treehouse trying to build up my frequent reader points at the local library starting with authors whose names began with the letter “A” and trying to see how many books I could read before Labor Day. That was the year I read “Wuthering Heights” and “Jane Eyre,” (by two of the Bronte sisters), but got slowed down in reaching the end of the alphabet by the discovery of the Agatha Christie mysteries. (She wrote eighty-two!)
I survived the summer of the tree platform, but I think Uncle Mart may have visited the hospital for a stitch or two after taking a dive from it. It’s what he did.
The following summer we got a pool. It was only eighteen feet in diameter, but to us, it was so big and luxurious. It was like having our own private swimming hole in the backyard. We were the luckiest family in town.