Wednesday, July 12, 2006
THE TREE HOUSE
The Tree House
Do the words Tree House conjure up some image from your childhood, a place where you could go and hide out, hang out, do pretty much what you wanted with no thoughts about the rest of the world? Most people associate tree houses with carefree little boys, messy places, usually, I mean, who “cleans” up a tree house? Most tree houses are in trees but I remember a friend who built one high on the rocks back behind his “real” house in the mountains overlooking the trees below, accessible by a torturous little path up the cliff face. It looked out into and over the tree tops.
Well, some years ago, Anna named the apartment we have in White Haven the Tree House, partially because it is on tree level in the front but mostly because when we went up there, we would have to spend several days cleaning up after my father and brother who had spent time up there the previous fall. Well, my brother used to come up more often when his aunt lived next door. With the aunt gone, he no longer seems to have any interest in going there. And, my father just turned 89 in May, so his visits are fewer and fewer. Pennsylvania is a long way from Florida, especially when you are 89 years old and driving all alone. I live 300 miles away and dread the drive up!
Four generations of our family have lived in this house and my great-grandparents were not the first owners of the house. I remember coming here to visit my father’s parents as a very little child. My grandfather and I used to sit in a big old swing on the front porch during thunderstorms. It was on this porch that he taught me how to tell how far away the lightning was by counting the seconds from the light to the thunder. He taught me distances and directions this way, also. “Now that one hit over near Freeland. That is 8 miles away,” he’d say. And he’d point and tell me the compass directions for Freeland.
The house is divided in to the Big House and a small 2 room apartment. Well, it isn’t all that small, really, but it is 2 rooms and a bath, an entry way and the “cave,” a small storage room in the hillside where we keep the garden tools, snow shovels, coolers, camping equipment, etc. The temperature in the cave stays in the 50-60º range year round. The living room doubles as a bedroom. The kitchen has a modern electric stove and an old wood or coal cooking stove that used to bake the best cookies! Years ago, Gram used to rent out the little apartment, then she moved into it in her old age when my step mother and brother were evacuated from Vietnam and they lived in the big house. That side has a lot of rooms. When my dad was young, it had 6 bedrooms. Now most of the bedrooms are storage rooms or empty. Dad took two of the rooms and made them into one very large master bedroom. We rent out the big side of the house – well, sorta. E is a tenant but also the caretaker. She keeps the grass cut in the summer and the snow shoveled or plowed in the winter and lets my brother know when something isn’t working right.
You can enter the house from different levels as it is built into the mountainside. From the road, there are 6 steps up to the front yard where there is a porch with a door leading into the cellar. Personally, I would love to turn that into a little apartment – stone walls, etc. The cellar is divided into four rooms, one completely underground, one partly in the side of the hill. There is a set of steps up the side to the first floor level, the front porch, a flower garden, the patio, a sun porch and around back to the entrance to the apartment.
We have a driveway at what amounts to a block away (as measured by the block across the street, but we don’t have any streets crossing on our side) and it goes up to a parking area level with the second floor. Therefore one has to go up or down a flight of steps to get in or out of the house no matter where you park. In my old age, this sucks! The old stone steps are narrow and steep. The property then continues on up the mountain where Bill cuts little paths up to the old stone walls and some great old boulders where I used to climb up and have my morning coffee and watch the sun come up over the mountain and the morning fog burn off the river which is probably about 500 feet away if measured in a straight line. However, in the mountains, there is no such thing as a straight line. There is a very steep bank leading down to the river owned by the state now and is part of the Lehigh Gorge State Park. I used to climb up and down that bank like a little mountain goat when I was a kid. It has its own tiny waterfalls, two of them, actually, from the creek that runs thru my lot across the street. The Lehigh River, even on the hottest day of the year is cold. Seriously cold. But, we used to swim in it as kids.
There used to be a house down there, a great little place, and the people had kids my age and they used to let us run all over their place. Their yard was our “beach!” Then the state wanted it for their Park. The people would not sell. This went on for a couple of years. The state tried to take the place by condemning it. The owners fought back. Then one night, it mysteriously burned to the ground. The fire Marshall could not determine the cause of the fire. Right. But I digress, again. So, of course, the people sold it – the land, that is, since the house was gone – even the garage somehow burned down, too. Amazing, huh? And now it is all weeds and rock as part of the naturalized park.
Anyway, here are some pictures of the house, the mountain side (if you live in the Rockies, please don’t laugh at my use of the word mountain here – that is what it is called) the steps, the view from up back. The plants that line the road for a few hundred feet are peonies my grandfather planted eons ago. Grandpop dies in 1954. The trees around the house make it impossible to get a picture of the house in a way to show its size, etc. I will do my best to put the pictures on so you can tell what is what, but I haven’t figured out quite how to arrange things so I can put captions with them. This blog is pretty used friendly, but I am still learning.