My daddy built a tree house for my brother at the edge of the woods across the field from our house. It was a sturdy platform wedged securely among a few young but tall hardwoods. It had two walls but the rest was open to the surrounding woods. A small, shallow creek gurgled softly nearby. The entrance was by a hand made ladder. My brother was delighted. My daddy was pleased with his gift and proud of his work – as he should have been. But my feelings were hurt. I felt left out. Daddy so obviously made it for my brother – not for the both of us. Of course, I knew my brother, always sweet and generous, would allow me to play there whenever I wanted. So I nursed my hurt feelings in silence.
That tree house was a magical place. It was a fort, a castle, a magic carpet, a hideaway. It was anyplace it needed to be whenever it needed to happen. I sat nestled there among the trees a many a time reading, writing, or simply daydreaming. But I spent many times in that tree house being a myriad of other things: Rapunzel, captive and waiting for her prince; a queen commanding armies; a jungle girl whose best friends were wild animals; Diana the goddess of hunting and the moon; a cloistered nun; an evil sorceress living in a stone tower; a forest nymph caring for the trees and wildlife; a solitary woman who lived deep in the forest collecting herbs and such for magical brews; Wonder Woman living among the Amazon Women on Themyscira; a tree fairy; a magical girl whose best friend was a flying tiger; a tortured poet writing meager verse; a starving artist living in a lonely loft; a runaway girl hiding from some evil something.
My brother played there often, sometimes alone, sometimes with me, sometimes with friends. And I know he thoroughly enjoyed it. But I am absolutely certain he never enjoyed that tree house more than I did.
For a long time it bothered me that my daddy saw that tree house as belonging to my brother. I’m sure he never meant to hurt my feelings but Daddy was old school and he saw things in strict categories – like male and female. I suspect it never occurred to him that a girl would want to play in a tree house. Girls liked doll babies, dollhouses and dress up. He knew I had a big imagination but I’m pretty sure he didn’t realize how alive and vibrant it actually was. I don’t fault him for that. Most of my imaginings I kept to myself. I figured some of my imagined characters might have been up for questioning or conversation about sin or being of sound mind. And I wasn’t up for any of that. I preferred to have my magical world all to myself – free of judgment and possible condemnation. Besides, I had secretly decided that the tree house was really mine. And some things are just better kept to yourself.