The eyes of a child can turn the mundane into something extraordinary. They can see the littlest of details that adults gloss over in their daily lives – grinding to pay the bills. A field of grass in a park becomes an open plane, and orcs surround you. A sandbox is a beach at the end of the world, and you must protect it from the invading pirates. The neighbor’s dog is a Cerberus from Hades protecting its horde of treasure. There is a treehouse that can instantly trigger my child’s eye.
1. The Library
My child’s eye was always active, thanks to my Uncle Adam. He was in his mid-20s when most active in my life. He would always take my sister and me adventuring; we were around seven and ten, respectively. He took us to the library and encouraged us to read. The library was a quaint, lone building at the edge of Antelope, California; A small suburb near Sacramento, but it felt in the middle of nowhere.
My sister picked a plethora of books, but I could care less about the tales the pages held. I wanted to have adventures of my own – to be the person in the pages fighting orcs in middle earth or traveling into space with a towel. I wanted to feel the wind rushing against my face as I climbed out of the wardrobe into the snow-covered lands of Narnia.
Multiple paths led to the library, and we would take all barring the most straightforward. My favorite was the path through the trees. It was the Irkwood forest, and it was my job to protect my sister from the beasts hiding off the main road. The cold wind blew through our hair, and the sound of rustling bushes caressed our ears. I readied my invisible sword and guided us forward – ready for the giant spiders, trolls, or wood elves to attack; I wanted them to. However, they never did.
I sheathed my sword as we approached the stables, where Spot lived. Spot was my sister’s favorite horse, and we would visit him often. She loved to pet his soft fur, feeling his hairs run through her fingers. The place always smelt like manure. The stench would crawl up our nostrils and rest there.
Uncle Adam would give my sister nuts or an apple to feed Spot. One-time Spot accidentally bit my sister’s hand, and I drew my sword with her yelp of pain. I knew I was no match for the horse, but I had to do something. I slashed and thrashed in the air to no avail. My sister was shocked.
We didn’t see Spot too much after that. We went back a year or so later, but Spot no longer called that stable home. I saw tears roll down my sister’s face, but she claimed it didn’t bother her.
2. The Treehouse
Next to our house lay the plains of Rohan, or that’s what I called it. It was just an unsold plot of land we would hike through to get to Irkwood. One day we were passing through Rohan and came across a tree. This tree was unique; it grew up and out. The leaves touched the ground, making an enclosed room: a bubble.
We put up a flag and claimed it as our treehouse. My sister, Adam, and I visited every day. We camped out, read books, and he would tell us stories. Well, he would recite Roald Dahl’s poems.
“Have I ever told you about real witches?” Uncle Adam asked us, sitting in the tree. My sister and I only knew about the witches in cartoons with their long noses and warts. We both shook our heads.
“What are real witches?” we asked simultaneously.
“Real witches dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses, and they work in ordinary jobs. Unlike ordinary women, real witches hate children with a red hot sizzling hatred that is more red hot than any hatred you can imagine,” he said.
“Why do they hate children?” I asked as we leaned closer.
“Because getting rid of children to a witch is like eating candy for a child,” he said. He was trying to scare us, teaching us not to talk to strangers, but we bought every word he said. In his voice was the wisdom of the world. Uncle Adam had a Jesus-like look with his brown beard and long flowing hair, so in our minds, he was the wisest adult of all.
Day after day, we would add more to our treehouse; I can still smell the pine and dirt as I recall the place. Uncle Adam brought a rope, tied it to the tallest and strongest branch, and made a swing for us to play on. Out of an old blanket (that he kept in his car,) he set up a hammock where he would read while my sister and I played.
3. The Effects of Time
Our treehouse was our Helms Deep: our fortress to protect. We built our kingdom. Our library loaded with books, our rope ready to mount when the time came to defend it. Aside from an occasional orc or uruk, there wasn’t much in which to protect our fort. It was a place where we were at peace.
The must of dirt and pine-filled our nostrils while we played and relaxed. Uncle Adam left home, or wherever his soul led him. We didn’t see him too much after he left, but we still came to play. We had our treehouse for a good year before it happened.
The land sold, and our treehouse was blocked off. A giant fence enclosed the area; barbed wire separated us from our Helm’s Deep. Our books, his blanket: gone. We couldn’t get them back. We walked the perimeter of the barrier, trying to find an opening, anything to let us in. The Uruks had captured it.
A little while later, the entirety of Rohan bulldozed. Our treehouse destroyed, and I was unable to fight it. The machines and tractors roared as it fell to the ground. Tears rolled down our faces as we lost our playground, our memories of Uncle Adam. We longed to go back to that place, but like Spot in the stable, life flows, changes, and moves on like a river or stream.
The memories remain, and the treehouse lives still as a feeling in our hearts. The library is the only place that remains from that simpler time. Walking into it brings back the smell of dirt and pine, the memories of picking up books at Adam’s recommendation, and the encouragement to let our imaginations free.