One of the things many of us are experiencing in the life of the unraveling world is more knitting together across the internet, across the yard, on the bike path, among those in our households, over the phone.

Today, I’m taking time to write to those I didn’t find time or energy to respond to during the “work week” when I was busy sorting through so much related to shutting down, letting workers go, managing the business, trying to imagine what next, while reading the news that changes constantly.

I woke up thinking of the kids and families and of the tree house and sent the e-mail below. So far, a few kids plan to visit.

Meanwhile, my house is getting cleaned. JT is tackling the bathrooms with the attentive, detail-oriented focus that makes him a great copy editor, and I am rambling my way through various chores with the divergent thinking I bring to life, here, there, and everywhere, getting things done and thinking of new things to do as I go.

Isabel made us a fine breakfast, tidied up, and headed out with three friends from Rindge, making me even more grateful for the few months she spent there, which left her with local friends near enough to bike from their homes, far enough that she’s introducing them to the bike paths near our home, venturing into Arlington, Medford, and Winchester.

Later, its the Breakheart Reservation for me and JT, a walk in the woods, and time to be together out of doors. Somehow, the weekend feels like a real relief here. Even as the world unravels, there is joy in connection, in caring for home and neighbors, in doing our work in new ways, in being out of doors and active, in cleaning things that haven’t been cleaned and sleeping in a bit, after years of hardly slowing down or having time or energy for lots of things.

If you’d like to visit the Tree House, let me know, and we can find a time for an appointment. Share your dreams, as well as your fears. Maybe together we can make them true.

Hello All,

I woke up thinking of all of you. When Isabel and I collected her things from her dorm at Landmark, I found the tree house book I used to keep in the day care, and decided to bring it home so I could share it with the children over Zoom or in photos to remind us of our shared dreams and stories. 

Many years ago the tree house in the backyard was built out of the dreams and stories and community of the day care. At a time when my family was breaking apart and my financial future was uncertain, the children wanted to build a tree house. At first I thought we could build it ourselves. When I was a little girl, I had wanted to build a club house in my backyard. My two best friends had fathers who built them each real club houses, with windows and doors and roofs. My stepfather promised, but didn’t. One day I gathered pieces of flat wide siding boards, a hammer, and nails, and tried to get started. I didn’t get far. Somehow, I thought the kids and I could build the tree house with our day care tools. And then I realized we couldn’t. I also realized I didn’t have the money for supplies. The children were not worried. They set about raising money for the tree house. When I saw how committed they were, I wondered who would help us. We put a request out on the list, and soon a grandfather offered to build it with us/for us. He had a son-in-law who was a structural engineer who would help design it, and two grandchildren in the day care, one adopted from Columbia, and one born miraculously shortly after, whose lives and community he wanted to honor.

The children raised one thousand dollars that year! They baked cookies and sold them at the end of the day care day and at Sudbury Valley. They painted pictures and we made and sold calendars. They wrote letters to the parents, and many donated. We had a huge day care yard sale during Porch fest and raised money that way. The grandfather built a wonderful tree house and the children were so happy that all of the children could play in it, with it’s tall sides and safe ramp ladder. The grandfather measured the hanging bars so that each of his grandchildren and their friends would have the right height to test their skills. 

In the middle of the children’s fundraising efforts, that grandfather had a serious stroke. I worried that the children’s dreams of a tree house with a ramp that would go up and down, a rope ladder, a roof, and a pulley to the upstairs porch (which was there for several years but no longer) would not come true. But the grandfather rallied. He came and worked as he recovered. The children could see him from the back door and the porch as he hammered and sawed and built. 

All that year Isabel and her after school friends counted and rolled quarters. She and I set up a passbook account at Middlesex, called The Tree House account, which grew roll by roll of quarters. She is still a wiz with money and manages her own accounts with skill I trace back in part to the year we dreamed the tree house into being.

When the tree house was done, one of the older girls (whose younger brother had dreamt it in the first place, an active guy adopted from Guatemala, whose arrival marked the beginning of our connection) decided to make a wooden marker dedicating the tree house to the day care and to the kids who would use it into the future. We honored that group’s work in a ceremony and for many years the Tree House was a focus of our backyard play.

Two years ago at this time the day care was shut down by EEC after we made and reported a mistake we made by leaving a child at the park. Since that time we haven’t felt able to use the tree house, knowing that we were skating on thin ice and couldn’t afford an injury in the yard on a tree house that didn’t fully meet EEC requirements for backyard play equipment. The children ask about it and we say they may not use it because of rules we need to follow. When we were relicensed this summer, our licensor confirmed with us that we were not using the tree house. Fortunately the ladder the children requested, that could go up and down, has allowed us to see and not visit the tree house, and has prevented the licensors from requiring us to take it down.

This morning I realized I am not currently operating a licensed day care and that maybe some children would like to visit the tree house during this unusual time. I think about how the children are missing out on playgrounds and climbing and getting a different view by being up high. Though some of us, like Emmy and Harper and I, have porches on the second floor, others find their lives more settled down below, and might enjoy being up high and exploring the tree house for a little while.

If you would like to make a date to come and visit the tree house, let me know. I’d have to think about how to stagger the visits and would clear it with my household members so we would all know who is coming and going. While the tree house is mostly made of wood, there are a few parts made of metal bars and two plastic hand holds. Perhaps before leaving a family could wipe those down with something sanitizing.

I’ve also been thinking, as I read the news, about how to share things from the day care if we are closed longer than three weeks, which seems possible to probable. If families would like to borrow  toys or books that are meaningful to their child, or take home the special animal they sleep with at nap, or their nap blanket, or gather things from their cubbies, please let me know. I also have a lot of art supplies I would be happy to share, if families could use those.

I’d like to keep writing about children and learning during this time. I’m thinking about the format I want to use, and will keep you posted. Please let me know if there are topics you’d like me to address or information or ideas you’d like me to share.

So much is changing so fast, I haven’t been able to get my head around fall contracts or tuition or the financial ramifications of all that is happening. If you have thoughts about those things to share, I’m open to a conversation. We are all operating in a landscape that is transforming all around us, in which making plans for the future feels almost absurd.

I am happy for the children to have this time with you, even as I miss them and all of you. For all the stress and challenges, you are the most important people in your children’s lives. They can never get enough of your love and time and attention. May you find peace and love in your connections with your children as well as time for your work and yourselves and your adult relationships.

May our dreams continue to come true,

Maria