Any good mother has a set of rules that her children are to follow and my mother was no different. Some of these rules are almost universal: don’t touch the oven, don’t play in the street, be home before dark, be in bed by nine, always eat your vegetables, don’t talk to strangers, and always listen to your parents. That last one was always the worst.
Most mothers also have another set of rules, one that is custom tailored to the life that she is trying to create for her family. Rules like: don’t call your sister a boy, don’t touch the dog’s face, and don’t eat food out of the garden.
One summer when I was six years old we moved into a new house. It was beautiful, and big, and ours. The backyard trailed off into a forest and I must admit even now I am not sure where our backyard ended. Right before the forest was a large maple tree, and up in that tree was a tree house.
That tree house was rickety and old, and my Mother didn’t trust it. She had my Father take down the rope ladder and instructed my siblings and me to never go up there.
It was yet another rule and when I was six the rules already seemed so thick. I did not have the foresight to see that eventually the rules would relax and responsibilities would take over.
I eventually decided that I would climb that tree, but it must have been some months later, as I remember the leaves being the oranges and yellows of fall. I needed to see what was up in that tree house. I didn’t tell any of my brothers or my sister, I wanted this victory to be mine and to be frank I didn’t trust them.
I made it up there with little difficulty and even though it was comprised of rotted boards and rusted nails I was a king and it was my castle. After an hour or so the charm wore off I decided it was time to get down.
It seemed much farther down then it did looking up. I was scared and I began to panic. Eventually I calmed myself a little and was able to climb about halfway down before I slipped and fell about six or seven feet. I landed on my back. I was dazed and sore and I think I got the wind knocked out of me.
My mother called out the back door for supper. I quickly regained my senses and my breath. I ran back inside and tried to act like nothing happened. She could never know.
Years later I confessed to my Mother my egregious treason, to which she responded, “I know.” She must have seen me climb the tree. I looked at her with wonder and confusion to which she replied, “I figured you’d learn your lesson.”
I said, “But what if I had been badly hurt or even if I had been fine and just kept using the tree house behind your back?”
“Then I guess I would have learned my lesson.”