The tree-house era

Looking out the train window this morning as I headed into work something I saw triggered a memory. I don’t know what it was I saw; perhaps it was something I overheard or read. In any case, a seemingly random memory popped into my head fully formed.

The memory took me back to my childhood, when I was about 12 or 13 years old. We lived in a suburb called Lower Plenty. Our house was architect designed and I remember when I was still in primary school how dad would pick me up after school and together we would visit the property as it was being constructed. Then we would head back to Thornbury, where we still lived.

I was about 7 when we moved in, maybe 8 – I think my first year of primary school in Lower Plenty Primary was grade 2, though it was probably six months after I started there we actually moved. It was a young suburb, a lot of vacant land and most of the families young. In our street, we were surrounded by Catholic families with more kids than you could poke a stick at. On one side were the Jennings, who topped out at fourteen or fifteen children a decade or so later – there was already half a dozen when we moved in. On the other side was the Woodward’s, five of them, including my best mate from my childhood, Peter Woody, a year older than me, and probably a foot taller at some stage. I was on the smaller side until my mid-teens, and Peter W was always big – he ended up a big-framed 6’ 8”.

All of this meant I had a great childhood. We played cricket in our backyard, kicked a footy around in the street, rode our bikes around everywhere, and generally got into a lot of mischief and strife – which included fights with the Edwards street gang, and building billy-carts and once, a raft. Very Huck Finn.

The memory recalled to me was of a tree-house we used to congregate at. It’s funny to remember. When you’re a kid you don’t have the same boundaries you have as an adult, much less the same inhibitions. The tree hut was in a large, sprawling pine tree which was growing on the other side of the fence line in a strangers property. It was easily accessible, however, and so we were undeterred.

It was a grand tree-house, over three levels at the top of the tree, really top shelf as far as tree-houses go. I remember working on it while the sun shone down. Mostly it was Peter Woody and me, the radio would be playing while we hammered and sawed. It would be school holidays and I remember the big song at that time was by Crystal Gayle, Don’t It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue. I loved that song, and the rare occasions I hear it now it recalls that time to me. I didn’t hear it this morning though, at least not consciously.

There was a large parcel of vacant land directly over our back fence – which was just a bunch of wires. At different times there was a horse grazing in this paddock, and at other times it was our playground. There was a time when we would excavate holes and construct roofs over the top and call them forts. That was fine until we discovered that spiders and other creepy crawlies liked these players too.

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