I missed a call from my Dad this weekend. I was putting my daughter down for her nap at the time and came out to hear a message from him.
“Hi Pam. It’s Dad; I’m up North and doing something you’re not going to like. I have to tear down the fort. It’s getting old and I’m worried kids will climb on it and get hurt.”
It was sweet of him to leave me the message and he was right that I am sad about the demise of “Fort Thunderbird,” the scene of so many wonderful childhood memories. But I know he’s right: it’s time.
Certainly any parent can’t argue with the logic of removing warped and rotting boards that might beckon children to a bad fall from a tall, previously wonderful tower where you can gaze through the dense woods with binoculars, looking for deer, birds, or a rogue pirate sneaking up to ambush.
And every adult could understand that an empty theatre, with a stage visited only by ghosts of children performing plays about sailors, pirates, and wounded souls in need of laser surgery, is no longer operational.
But I know why he really left the message. He’s seeing his children charge him a quarter for those performances, running around in the pirate hats, with swords he handcrafted from paint sticks, and secret treasure maps he drew in his own hand. He’s hearing small feet come thundering down the path from the fort screaming about snakes. He’s emptying buckets of rocks collected by small hands and left in the tower for safekeeping. He’s remembering those precious days of freedom we all found together, away from work and the duties and obligations of home. Summer vacations at the cabin where we all spent time in nature and in the company of each other were the best memories of my young life and I know they were some of his as well.
My Dad has gently reminded me that time is changing and we cannot hold onto the things of our past forever. We have to evolve and grow and open ourselves to new and equally wonderful journeys. My daughter, V, my little niece, A, and any subsequent additions to our family will not experience the joys my sisters and I got from the tower fort with real bark walls that my parents erected some 20+ years ago. But they will still have a family who believes in the power of imagination and fantasy. I know we’ll find new ways to pass on our dreams and experiences to the newest generation in our family. Though their feet will never climb the tower of Fort Thunderbird, nor grace the performance stage, and they will never set an old rope spool for tea while seated on driftwood seats inside it, together we will make our own magical childhood summer memories.
Thanks to my parents for gifting us with “Fort Thunderbird” (alternately known as “Thunderbird Theatre”) and for inspiring us to use our creativity through play in nature.