Monday, June 16, 2014

A Father's Day tale: A boy and a treehouse

            I’ve fallen in love—with a nine-year-old freckle-faced boy named Cole. He’s tall for his age, the second tallest in his third grade class and his red hair is casually mussed. When he grows up, he wants to be an artist. And an athlete, but he hasn’t decided what sport he’ll pursue. At the moment he likes lacrosse. And basketball. And swimming. And running. But he’s not too keen on baseball.
              Cole’s mom Susan surprised him with an end-of-the-school year visit to Fern Forest Treehouse. She and Cole have just finished building a treehouse in their own yard in New Hampshire, and Cole is looking forward to sleeping in it. There are screens but no windows to close, and he and his friends will be high and dry as long as it doesn’t rain. They’ll unroll sleeping bags on the floor and use flashlights to see after it gets dark. Sleeping in a treehouse with windows, electric lights and a real bed was pretty cushy.
            Sue and Cole had climbed Camel’s Hump that Saturday, a challenging hike to the top of the four thousand foot mountain, and they were pretty tired. After they settled in, we offered them some cheese and crackers before they went out for dinner. My own son at nine years old was silly and uncomfortable around adults. But Cole nibbled carrot sticks and Von Trapp cheese and talked with maturity about the Rube Goldberg type of contraption he had made for the school science fair and his plans for the summer—basketball camp and a two-week trip to Michigan to visit his father. 
It was Father’s Day weekend, and I was hesitant to ask about Cole’s dad, but Sue volunteered that he has a new wife and daughter. She left Michigan when Cole was just a year old and moved back east to be near her parents and her sister. She and Cole were getting along fine until last week when she was laid off from her job as a division vice president in a large health care company. There was a look of worry on her pretty face as she glanced at Cole next to her on the couch, calmly nibbling a cracker.
That evening they had dinner at Snap’s, a fifties style café. Then they came back, put on their swimsuits, and had a soak in the hot tub, the clouds giving way to a brief view of the stars. When they retreated to the treehouse, Cole fell asleep quickly, lulled by a drizzle on the metal roof and a breeze rustling the maple leaves.
Sue may be newly unemployed and a single mom, but she’s intelligent, and she has her priorities straight. Her top priority is Cole and making sure he knows he’s loved. What greater love can a mom show than to spend a couple of days with him high above the worries of the world in a safe and cozy tree.
Before they left, Cole agreed to pose for pictures. There were hugs and well wishes, and we waved as they headed to Waterbury for a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s factory. It was Father’s Day, and H unwrapped gifts of chocolate and a wine stopper and got a call from our son Will. I hoped Cole would talk to his dad that day. I’m sure Cole misses him, but I’m even more sure that his dad is missing some very precious moments with a very special young man.

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