The Summer of 1969: Returning to the Old Tree Fort

By Richard Mabey Jr.


Our story so far: It is now Wednesday, late morning, on the twenty-fifth of June of 1969. I had just given my article, about what scouting meant to me, to Mr. Marino, the Editor-in-Chief of the Lincoln Park Journal. I was so very happy that Mr. Marino liked my article and told me that he planned on publishing in his next edition. On my way, walking home, I stop at Moe’s Sweet Shop to buy a Batman comic book. Mary Tafano is there with her friends. Mary is very kind to me and offers to help me paint the interior of Thorpe Hall. I leave Moe’s Sweet Shop and begin my walk home. While walking home, several landmarks bring back a myriad of memories to me. Upon reaching home, I feel the gentle breeze in my backyard, the whisper of the Lord to come home. Inside home, I find Mom reading her Bible in the formal living room.


After lunch, I walked outside to the tall, towering maple tree in my backyard. It was home to my incredible three-tier tree fort. I carefully rolled up my Batman comic book, that I had bought at Moe’s Sweet Shop earlier that day and put it in my back pocket. Then I climbed the manila rope that hung down from the first tier of my dear old tree fort. Upon reaching the wooden platform, resting upon the strong limbs of the mighty maple, I took a deep breath and took in the bird’s eye view of my house and yard.


It had been one full year since I had last climbed up to my old tree fort. I was now halfway through high school. I would be turning 16, in early September. I took out my Batman comic book, from my back pocket, and began reading it. I wasn’t but three pages into reading my comic book, when a certain sadness befell upon my heart, mind, and soul. A certain loneliness creeped its way into the marrow of my inner most being. It was a gentle, dull, subtle sadness. Still, it was a sadness, all the same.


It hit me like a brick wall, in that moment in time. As I looked to the safety and security of my old farmhouse, the old Mabey Homestead, a deep realization dawned upon me. The clock was ticking. The pages of the calendar were being torn away, much too fast. Soon, I would probably be leaving this place and going off to college.


I tried my best to find the joy and splendor and wonder of reading a comic book, atop my old tree fort. But the gentle sadness outweighed any sense of joy and splendor. It seemed so odd. It was only a year ago that I had found such happiness in the simple thing of reading a comic book in my tree fort. Now it seemed the magic had evaporated, vanished from me in a blink of an eye.


I looked down upon my dear sister’s life-size dollhouse. It needed to be painted, oh so badly. I saw the irony of it all. I was spending full days, from early morning till about four o’clock in the afternoon, painting the inside of Thorpe Hall. And yet, I was neglecting the painting needs that called to me in my own backyard.


Once more, I tried to return to reading my Batman comic book. But the ghost of conscience kept creeping into the deepest chambers of my heart. For tomorrow, at this very time, I would be at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, painting the interior of Thorpe Hall. I tried to remind myself to enjoy this moment. But the ache, the loneliness, the sense of the pain of the of coming of age, loomed its way into the marrow of my bones.


A squirrel scurried from the earth below to the level where I was seated on the platform of my tree fort. For a few moments, the furry little creature looked over to me, as if to say hello to me. There was something so innocent about that moment in time that it deeply touched my heart. This was a sacred moment in time that was to be etched into the fiber of my heart.


Suddenly the squirrel looked up toward the heavens and quickly ascended further up the bark of the towering maple tree. There was a kind of hollowed out area in the main trunk of the tree, just across from where I was seated. My little friend disappeared into that little cavern in the tree. The painful loneliness once again returned to my heart center.


To be continued.


Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at Please place the wording “My Life Weekly” in the subject line.

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