Sunday, October 25, 2015

Lets Go Build A Fort

"I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” 

Do any of you remember what it was like as a kid to pile up couch cushions, drape some blankets on top of it and crawl inside with your friends and tell scary stories?  Well, I do.  And it brings back such vivid and powerful memories.  So about 4 years ago when my oldest said, “dad, will you help me build a fort?” I couldn’t have been happier to oblige. This innocent question awoke a primal urge that has been part of man since our Australopithecus (yes, I just name-dropped an obscure anthropology reference) ancestors started looking for caves to adorn with pictures of mammoths.

So not too long ago my family and I were staying at a good friend’s cabin and it just so happened that, due to a pine beetle infestation, there was a significant amount of cleared and cut wood lying like manna from heaven for the taking. Our first attempt at construction was feeble but valiant none the less. Falling short of the mark (and both of us knowing it), my daughter and I spent the next 6 months discussing plans for re-designing our fort in a fashion that would gain the acceptance of the famous fictional architect Howard Roark.

With a healthy amount of anticipation built up during the drive to the cabin, and a general idea of how we were going to make this thing legit, we went to work. For the next three days we were in the zone. At the Brown construction site, my daughters made sure I understood that rest was for the weak. Being equipped with only the essentials…twine, a shovel, and a knife, we let our imaginations drive our creativity. As our veritable “edifice of frontier functionalism” began to take shape, an interesting thing occurred. For the first time as a father, I found myself and my kiddos on the exact same level of intellectual involvement. I was not pulling them to do something, neither were they pulling me. In that moment we were one in purpose.   And dammit, we were building the greatest log fort that Duck Creek Village has ever seen.

I don’t think I’m alone.  I mean...honestly…who doesn’t like building a fort? At home, couch cushions and blankets become sibling’s tools of the metaphorical communal Amish barn raising.   In the woods, sticks and logs do the trick.  I can only assume that thousands of years ago the ancient Druids were goofing around with their kids in a field full of rocks and someone said, “Son, have you heard of post and lintel architecture? It’s all the rage.” Fort-building is in our DNA.

Part of it is because let’s face it, when you finish the job, the pure awesomeness of crawling inside with a flashlight can be rivaled only by Ed McMahon’s surprise visit with a giant check in hand.  And do you want to know what the most satisfying and pleasantly surprising outcome was for me through the building process (I use the word process because although the fort is technically done…we plan on working on it every time we go back)?  I’ll tell you.  The most wonderful part of this was that the emotions I felt in those moments were the exact same for me now as an F-er as they were for me as a 7-year-old boy.  As the Brown family stacked logs, I was able to catch a perfect glimpse into the creative souls of my girls.  And at the same time, my girls were able to see a side of their dad that had long since been boxed up and locked away.  

So now whenever we go back to our friend’s cabin, we park, we unload our luggage, and we immediately go to work on the Brown family fort.  I get to feel like a kid again, and my girls get to travel back in time to see what their dad was like at their age.  And if you allow me to wax a little poetic for a second, this humble frontier dwelling is a terrific symbolic expression of my relationship with my kiddos. From the outside it may seem imperfect and haphazard, but step inside and it’s a stable refuge offering shelter and security. And no matter where we seem to be in the process there is always something to improve.  See… I told you it was poetic.

But seriously, all metaphors aside, this experience has been a priceless bonding experience for me and my kids.  So fellow F’ers, your assignment this week is to get out and build a fort. Grab some blankets and pillows, and get to work.  Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself driving the DeLorean at 88 miles per hour into the deep recesses of your childhood. And when you’re done bonding with your kids, send them to bed, grab some popcorn, and watch a scary movie in the palace you just created. I promise you it will open dusty old memories that you will be glad to re-live alone or with your family.  Happy Building!!

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  1. Beautifully written. Who doesn't love a good fort and a great Dad?!

  2. I agree, Tasha. Quinn, your writing abilities are developing as beautifully as your fort.

  3. Nik and I are heading up this weekend. Looking forward to checking out your latest additions.