Not long ago, we lived for a few years in a smallish town in northern California, far removed from the hustle and bustle of big-city life that we had always known. It was a grand experiment, a change of scenery and lifestyle – one of those things that you don’t think too much about until you’re raising a family. We had blue skies, clean air, lakes and rivers all around us, and trees. Lots and lots of trees!

We bought a home on the edge of town. It came with an acre of land for the kids to run around, and a small creek that wound its way through the front of the property. Oh yeah, and it had trees. So many trees that we actually had to cut a few dozen of them to allow some sunlight to reach the ground. And finally, the kids could have a real treehouse.

It was scenic and serene and . . . it needed a lot of work. I imagine that most people would move into the house, carve the home improvement effort into bite-size pieces, and tackle the projects one at a time. Not us. We’d been through a home remodel before, and if we learned anything, it was that our little weekend projects tended to become half-completed eyesores.

We spent about four months renovating the place before finally moving in. Portions of the house were gutted to open up the space and allow daylight to creep in. We put in a brand new kitchen, hardwood flooring, and new carpet. We painted – everything. A handsome new woodstove graced one corner of the room. It was finally starting to look and feel like home. There were still some projects to be finished, but alas I was out of time (and out of money), and it was time to get on with our lives.

As any parent knows, the demands of kids’ activities will test even the most organized of families. With soccer, music lessons, scouts, and a host of school activities, it was hard to even think about finishing some of those projects around the house, much less find the energy to actually do them. But we still talked about the treehouse. We wandered the yard, sizing up all the different locations. We considered the size and shape of the trees, their location relative to the other playground amenities, and of course, the view potential. We talked about ladders and slides and rope swings, even a bridge to a platform in the neighboring tree. I drew some sketches, and thought about all the details, the materials I’d need. This was going to be one awesome treehouse!

I’m embarassed to admit that we never built it. At some point, I’d become so wrapped up in the idea of making this great treehouse, that I lost sight of why we were doing it. Instead of building something for the kids, I’d taken it on as a personal quest to make it bigger and better than it needed to be. The design was never quite good enough, we were busy with other things, and time gradually slipped away. I had squandered the opportunity, and denied my kids the chance to enjoy one of childhood’s great treats.

We still own the house. Another family has lived in it for about a year now. A couple of weeks ago, we were back in the area on vacation, and we took a drive through the old neighborhood. Not much had changed. We drove past the house to see if everything looked to be in order, and turned up a side street that offered a glimpse into the backyard. Peering through the trees, I suddenly felt a sickness in my stomach that I may never forget. It was as if all of the blood had drained from my body. There, in the corner of the yard, stood a treehouse. It wasn’t big. It wasn’t pretty. It didn’t have all the neat stuff. But it was there, and I imagine those kids think it’s just perfect.