We walked all over those 4 acres, and the stories poured out of me. Each thing I saw sparked a dozen memories, and I tried, as best I could, to put them into words.
As we made our way up towards the treehouse, I was fiddling with the settings on my camera, when we heard a scampering noise. I was saying, "Is that a squir—-" when suddenly a GREY FOX came leaping down the slide in 2 long bounds, and dashed away behind the barbed-wire fence! We stood there, stunned for a second, then starting laughing and asking each other, "Was that a FOX??" "I've never seen a fox here, that's crazy!" It was a very unexpected surprise!
Unfortunately, it happened so fast, I didn't get a picture of the fox. Grr. :(
But here is the treehouse, still going strong, 25+ years old. Dad sure knew how to build 'em! 2 stories tall, a really fast slide, a fireman's pole to go down from the second story, and—our favorite feature—the rope swing. Suspended on the beam about 10-12 feet from the treehouse itself, riding the rope swing was pretty epic. Because we jumped out of the 1st story doorway, of course, and swung in a huge, sweeping arc some 20 feet out! To make it even more dramatic, the treehouse is at the top of a hill, so at the furthest point of the rope swing's arc, the ground had sloped away, and we were even further above the ground. I don't want to exaggerate, but I'm going to guess 8 feet above the ground? My brothers would have to confirm that. But whatever it was, it seemed HIGH to a kid. Especially if you were riding the swing not sitting, but rather standing with one foot in the loop of rope.
All of our friends were drawn like magnets to this baby.
It. Was. Awesome.
Then we meandered around the shop for a while. There was a lot of junk...piles of who knows what, not stuff we left. I showed him the north side of the shop, where the roof overhang comes down close to the hill that is next to it, and I explained how in the winter, the snow would pile up on that side, and we would climb up onto the roof and slide down into the drifts! Also, it was THE prime spot for icicles. I mean icicles that were (no kidding) 3 feet long. We pretended they were swords or spears or light sabers, staging battles with them until they shattered into pieces. I also liked to break off the little 6 inch icicles, to snack on. Mmmmm, dirty roof water frozen into ice.....haha! We didn't care.
What I was NOT expecting was for Scott to go inside the shop. But, here he is trying the handle to see if it was locked, and, finding it unlocked, he just went on in!
I glanced towards the house to see if the owner was watching. She was nice and congenial when we spoke to her upon our arrival, so......I figured she wouldn't mind if we just stepped in for a minute.
I followed him in. And once again, my long-unused brain synapses started firing like mad.
My first impression was, Wow, this is a mess. This lady doesn't throw away or organize anything!
But then I looked a little closer, and started recognizing things....OUR things! What in the world?!
After perusing the shop and its unexpected contents for 20 minutes or so, we walked back to the house to tell the owner we were leaving. But not before I found a few more interesting things, though.
Water skimmer bugs in the irrigation ditch! Ok, not a great picture. Silly little things darted away before I could get closer. But these fascinated me to no end as a kid, providing hours of entertainment. When I spotted them, I squatted down to watch them for a minute. I was--and am--always amazed at how they skitter about on the surface of the water, defying the laws of physic. I suppose only Jesus, Peter, and these little bugs have walked on water!
After walking over the ditch, I realized we hadn't looked at the back yard. It was really sad to see how cluttered it was with ugly flower pots arranged in clusters, fake flowers and little statues and stuff mixed in for an eclectic-trashy look. I was pretty annoyed that anyone would "landscape" in this fashion, so I didn't waste time taking any pictures of it.
But, I did have to take a shot of this flower bed. I remember when Dad built it. I think it was a Mother's Day present. And boy, we planted that thing full to overflowering with gorgeous flowers. Red and pink roses, huge yellow African marigolds, white alyssum, a rainbow of gazanias, phlox, giant red poppies whose unopened flowers looked like alien pods about to explode. This was when I was 9 or so, and was REALLY getting into gardening. I helped Mom pick out all of our flowers at City Market and from catalogs, and we planted them in the rich topsoil Dad brought in to fill that flower bed.
Now.....it looks like this.
I also took a last shot of the front porch, for the sake of nostalgia. And because I remembered these exact pictures from my parents' photo albums.
This front porch. Man. Not only did we take lots of pictures on it, but I also remember it for the columbines that Mom had planted alongside it, and they spread all underneath the steps so that in the spring, the flowers would be sticking out from in between the steps, reaching for the sun. It was so gorgeous. Wish I had a picture of that.
I still remember precisely what it felt like to run up and down these steps. Hot, slightly rough wood under my always-bare feet. I got several splinters as the wood aged, but the worst part was when I would run up too fast, miscalculate, and scrape my shins on the front of a step I had intended to land on. OUCH! I always took them 2 or 3 at a time because......well, just because I was a crazy kid, I guess! But man, a slightly too-short stride on one jump, and I'd end up with bloody, bruised shins. It happened several times a year.
Didn't stop me from going up them 2 at a time, though.
We had a hummingbird feeder hanging outside the big window up there, so we watched them dive-bomb each other and fight over the nectar while we ate at the big oak dining table (which my Dad made, and my parents still use). One summer I got it in my head to try to catch one of the ruby-throats. I waited ever so patiently, standing on a lawn chair close to the feeder, with a bowl or something that I intended to scoop one up in. But, obviously, I did not succeed.
Chelsea, our German Shepherd, hated thunder. Like, she was really terrified of it. So, without fail, if it started raining and thundering, there would be our wet, scared dog, jumping straight up in the air—all 4 paws leaving the ground—looking in the dining room window to get our attention, until we finally let her in. Then she would cower under Mom's desk, the smell of wet dog filling the room!
One final picture to end this post, and to bring my visit to our old house to a close. This was over by the big planter which was then beside the young Willow, but is now under The Willow.
My favorite parts of this picture: the fence, built by Papa, because he used to graze cattle in the area where Dad built the treehouse; the peonies, because they're gorgeous and they matched my red dress. And my silly little smile, because it reminds me of my youngest daughter, who is now about the age I was in this photo.
After an hour-long visit that immersed me in remembering 16 years of my history, I looked around one last time, and said goodbye.
I began these posts talking about the recurring dreams I had about this house, and the unrest I felt when I thought about it. Interestingly, I have not had any dreams about it since then, which I am ok with; I take it as a sign that my subconscious has finally said goodbye, as well.
That night, I told Scott that I was so incredibly happy we had gone out there. I had relived everything, I felt the mental gaps filled in, I felt closure that I had been wanting since my family moved away, and I felt at peace, knowing that it hadn't all been something I had only imagined to be wonderful.
I took with me this truth:
It really was a magical place to grow up.
Thank you for reading. Next I will FINALLY get on with sharing pictures of the other 3.5 days of our trip to Durango!
If you missed one, check out the previous 3 posts in this series:
1. Going Home