Lombardi Column: Tree house makes a heavenly haven

04/26/2011 10:09 AM |

I’ve lived in them all and called all of them home — a Cape Cod, a colonial, a split level and now a ranch. But never, ever, a tree house. Matter of fact, I’ve never even climbed a tree.

Perhaps that’s not particularly important but I got to thinking about it, what with Arbor Day coming up tomorrow, April 29. True, that day is not big on the long list of calendar holidays, but I do remember certain grade-school teachers making a fuss about the day; the assignment would be to get out our Crayolas and draw a tree.

My drawings may have had a bluebird or two on the tippy-top branches but never did I add a tree house. No imagination then, I guess.

It’s different now. To me a tree house seems a home in the heavens. A cloud, a star, the moon, the sun — they’d all be closer and that’s just fine. Face it, though. I’ll not be climbing any trees in the days to come. My best bet is to listen to what some experienced North Fork tree people have to say about life in a tree house.

A few decades ago, Stanley Berkoski lived in a comfortable home on Main Road in Peconic. Still does. On the property adjacent to the Berkoski home there was a tree house and you might say Stanley lived there, too. After school and during summer vacations, Stanley and his pal Wayne climbed into that tree house and did what 10-year-old boys do: shared stories, ate cookies and identified the few cars passing on Main Road. No, the limousines had not yet arrived, but then, neither had the vineyards. Stanley’s mother said her son was “heartbroken” when he returned from school in Colorado and discovered the tree house had been dismantled, as in torn down.

About Stanley’s friend Wayne? He told me a swamp maple supported the tree house and that he and Stanley had nailed strips of wood to the tree to gain access to their hideaway.

Here’s something about Wayne and the tree house that’s more than just chance. At least I want to think so. Today, Wayne’s work is trees — planting them, pruning them, loving them. Yeah, that’s Wayne — Wayne Mott, whose North Fork business is Mott’s Tree Service. Funny, isn’t it, how the kids turn out.

Now comes the tough part. The romance of a tree house, cookies and car-counting is just part of the story. Practicality rears itself on the North Fork as it does elsewhere, I’m sure. I checked at the Southold Town building department and guess what? If you want to build a tree house larger than 10 feet by 10 feet, then you gotta get a permit. Really.

A pleasant woman in Town Hall told me the cost for a permit would be $100 plus 40 cents for each square foot of floor area. She gave me a few sheets of paper to take home to read. I was never very good with words like whereas, resolved, accessory and zoning. And if I wanted a tree house with a roof, I’d have to know the “mean height between eaves and ridge.” Oh, boy. Maybe Stanley and Wayne could help me.

Then I had another awful thought. Insurance. Would a tree house mean an increase in the cost of liability insurance? I called Brisotti and Silkworth Insurance in Mattituck. The agent I spoke with happens to know my age and I thought I detected a gasp of disbelief when I asked about a tree house. Anyway, the agent said she’d check it out. I told her there was no rush; it was unlikely I’d be constructing this spring.

But, ah, there is a Cutchogue family considering building a tree house within the next few months. Nine-year-old Courtney Trzcinski has her backyard spot all picked out. Three sturdy trees will support the tree house and Courtney seems to have every detail planned. Right down to the rope and bucket for hauling supplies heavenward (again, cookies).

Courtney’s parents, Debbie and Phil, are excited about the tree house, too. I’ll reveal it was Daddy Phil who “suggested” the tree house idea some time back. Good for you, Phil.

Courtney looks forward to quiet time in the tree tops — reading and crocheting scarves to give as gifts. And all the time she’ll be face to face with the squirrels and the birds. Quite possibly enough quiet time in a tree house gives a person sufficient courage to go out on a limb. Every now and then that’s a good place to go. A good place to grow.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.