Operation Save the Tree House… Part One

Almost five years ago, hubby began dreaming about building a house. But not just any ordinary castle. His idea was to create a structure that would both invite and delight. A place our daughters could play in. And a home that they could share with their friends. A tree house.

So hubs did what all dads without Engineering degrees do when they want to build something. He drove to Home Depot, talked to a bunch of employees, each with his own idea of which tool will do the job, and then he bought two books on Tree Houses. And Hubby doesn’t consider himself a reader.

Almost a year later, neighbors were asked and informed, consulted and queried. Everyone gave his idea two thumbs up and back to Home Depot Hubs went. To buy the first of many pre-cut pieces of pressure-treated wood to protect the developing structure from the elements of wind and rain and snow. Because he knew and we all knew, that this baby was not going to be finished in one day. 
Almost a year into the project, the base was done. And it didn’t look anything like a tree house. Yet. A lot of digging, cement pouring, securing, and supporting happened in that first year. Hubs wanted to make sure that the base of the tree house was strong and steady, able to handle the weight and activity of four growing princesses and their friends. 

But the project was tiring. And time consuming. And financially, all that wood was adding up. So hubby took a break. And never really let on when he would resume building the tree house. No one complained. No one was in a hurry. This wasn’t a time-sensitive project, like, say …Noah’s ark.

Then one day, motivation came when hubs was not searching for it: during a Parent-Teacher conference. Our second daughter was in first grade at the time, and when we visited with her teacher during Conferences, Mrs. S. raved about Nitha and her love for art and then proceeded to show us the book Nitha had written and illustrated all by herself. The book was called, “My Dad is Building a Tree House.” 

As we turned the pages of the precious story with details of our backyard adventure, the picture that got us both misty-eyed was one of Neenee *Nitha’s nickname, standing on a ladder with a hammer next to her Dad holding the ladder up. The caption read, “I love helping my Dad build the tree house. He shows me how to use tools. And it’s a lot of fun.” 

Before handing the book over for our keepsake, Mrs. S. turned on her serious voice. “It’s obvious how much this tree house means to your daughter. Dr. Paulus—I know you’re a busy man—but you MUST make sure to FINISH building the tree house.” She should have added, “Teacher’s orders!” 

We left that evening and I could tell hubby’s mind was churning. It was time to pick up the hammer again. Over the next two years, the tree house became functional and developed into a play structure/tree house hybrid, fully equipped with a slide, a swing, a rock-climbing wall, a rope bridge, and a trap door. Hubs even secured pipes underneath, making the girls two rows of monkey bars to swing across. A very kind neighbor donated a traffic light that Hubs fixed next to the slide. It was officially the coolest tree house I had ever seen. And then last August, windows went in and the girls painted the inside a pretty pattern of pastel colors with the help of their friends. Hubs nailed a “Welcome” sign to the top and we were up and running. 

Then two months later, almost a year ago, I came home one afternoon to find a paper stuck to my front door. The kind that you can tell is not good news even from ten feet away. I read the note and immediately texted Hubs. 

“We’re in trouble. The Town of Oyster Bay says we have ‘existing structures with improper setbacks and no permits.'”

Hubs was busy with patients, so he encouraged me to CALM DOWN and we’d look into it together when he got home. That was the beginning of Operation Save The Tree House. Because the entire situation began when a neighbor complained to the town about our Zip Line. Which we took down. Not happily. But we did. But this… this was not happening. 

The girls began whimpering as they questioned the fate of our beloved tree house. “What does this mean? Will we lose our tree house? Are they going to make Daddy cut it down?”

I mustered up my best Braveheart voice and reassured the girls. “Your Dad and I will do whatever it takes to fight for your tree house. Our tree house. And I mean that.” 

Deep down, I began hoping that the whole thing would just go away. Come on now. A tree house? Really? What was the point of asking all the neighbors in the first place if they were okay with it? I’m not gonna lie. I wanted to beat someone up. Doesn’t the world have other more life-threatening things to worry about than what’s going on in our backyard? On our property?

But that’s just it. We learned that even though you own a certain plot of land, you are not free to build on every inch of the area. In our particular town, the setbacks are three feet. And the tree house was only two feet from the back border. Darn that one foot that has created headaches and heartaches that have lasted almost a year. 

So all this week, I’m dedicating my blog to Operation Save the Tree House. I can’t completely explain why I’m so attached. But I know that something happens when you create something with your bare hands. Granted, Hubs has pounded in the majority of the nails. But I love our tree house built from scratch. I feel like our fingerprints are all over it. Our sweat is mixed in with the glue. And our heart beats somewhere within the walls of the finished product. Because before our eyes, a dream is now a reality. And so many friends pitched in to make it happen. 

At night, when we lay down to sleep, hubs and I talk about the days and weeks that we’ve dedicated to rescuing our wooden castle, and the one thing that amazes us more than anything else is our friends. They came out to build the tree house. And now the same friends and some new return, day after day, to save the tree house. And we are so grateful. So very grateful. 

Come back this week and read about the Status of the Rescue Operation and get to know the Friends I dig! 

**Is there something you’ve made in your life that you are super attached to? Have you ever felt the threat of it being taken away?

**IF you LIKED this POST, you MIGHT also LIKE:

“If You Build it, They Will Come”
OR
“Zipping into 2012 with the Letter P”
OR
“A Week of Storms…Tears for Colorado”

Dive Into Another Waterfall:

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