April, 2015: A tree house, a free house, a secret you and me house

For the next few days, I'll be reposting highlights from 2015. This post was originally published April 23rd. 
"A tree house, a free house,
A secret you and me house,
A high up in the leafy branches
Cozy as can be house...

Meredith and I met in 7th grade, years after the treehouse was built by her father, Randy. I went home with Mere after school one day and as we came around the driveway through the gate, my mind blew through the sky like a shot.

"How is this... "

"My Dad built it before I was born..."

"Where do you..."

"There's a ladder on the other side of the trunk..."

"Can we, like..."

"Of course. Follow me..."

We slept up there often, and when we were older, snuck boys in,  made out under blankets damp from sea air and climbed through the skylight across the suspension bridge to smoke Marlboro lights under the stars.
my dad crossing the suspension bridge, three stories high
It was a fantasy world and although I truly appreciated it at the time, looking back on those quiet years of loud emotions, I feel a sense of wonder, awe and gratitude that dwarfs the love I had for this place as a teenager.
Fable chills in the treehouse's king-sized bed

I may have appreciated it in those days, but I didn't know how good I had it. I didn't know that waking up in a treehouse many a summer morning would be one of my great life privileges. And it wasn't until I saw it again, reflected back at me through my children's eyes, did I SEE it see it.
"This is where some of my fondest memories live," I told them, looking up.
... But they were already gone, sewing the seeds of their own memories, their eyes wide with "whoa..."
I know I've written about the treehouse a hundred times through the years, but I'd never featured it, here. I've never spent an afternoon there with my children. I've never shared Randy's story... the builder himself, who in the last twenty years has added an extra room to the main house as well as a third level and an elevator.

"It was getting too hard for me to climb up without it," he explained, "So I built a new way up."

Randy fell out of a tree in his early twenties. He should have died but he didn't. He should have been paralyzed but he was not.

The story becomes almost biblical in nature after that. Randy, after making a near-full recovery from his injury, decided he wanted to build a house in the eucalyptus tree in the backyard of the house he was (at the time) renting. And although he would never walk the same, he kept walking. And climbing. And building.

"It started with a platform and a fireman's pole... and then, over the years... I kept building."
Randy met Mere's mom soon after and later purchased the house they rented together, one block from the beach. Through the years, Randy added on to his treehouse.... the platform became a full-on house, followed by a suspension bridge that led to another level.  Then another. And then one day Randy taught himself to make stained glass and filled his treehouse with the most glorious rainbow windows...
What almost killed him became his magnum opus. And indeed it is. 
I realize I am in no way an authority on treehouses. However, I would venture to bet a million trillion dollars that in all the Architectural Digests in all the land, no treehouse has been built with the hutzpah this one has. Randy's story is one of fearlessness, determination and magic... and the treehouse (hell, the entire yard!) reflects that...

Build your world. 
Build it slowly over time. 
Build it well. 
Build it fearlessly. 
Randy also makes his own neon because of course
(read it backwards)
Neverland would be jealous. 
I wasn't fully aware of Randy's story as a teenager. I guess I didn't ask or maybe I was too busy trying to sneak boys up into the main house with Meredith, but listening to Randy as he re-introduced me to his magical world, I began to see his house through new eyes.
IMG_7278IMG_8552Meredith and the boys, on the other side of the suspension bridge
IMG_7286Our boys.
Randy Becker's treehouse lives as a reminder of many things -- the magic of childhood, the growth of a personal dream... but perhaps, most importantly, it stands as a lesson that a great fall inspires an even greater climb.

And when the climb becomes too difficult? Build a new way up.  
I am ever so fortunate that my adolescent memories will always include within them such a magical place. And that my children, all these years later, get to experience it, too. Thank you, Becker family. Thank you, Randy.

...A street house, a neat house,
Be sure to wipe your feet house
Is not my kind of house at all- 
Let's go live in a tree house.” 

- Shel Silverstien