Becky showed up around 5:00 on Saturday while I was working on dinner, and one of the boys let her in.
“I’m not too early, am I?” she asked.
“No, but your son and the others aren’t here yet.They should be arriving shortly, however, and Danny should be getting here soon as well.”
“I hope there weren’t any problems with them getting back from Texas.”
“Brandon called me from the airport after they landed in Pittsburgh, so the only problem they might have encountered would be getting caught in traffic on their way here.”
“Yes, I’m sure you’re right.”
“By the way, you and Revin are going to want to come back here with us after church tomorrow.”
“I take it there’s a reason you want us to do this.”
“Yes.While the others have been gone, Pop and the older boys have fixed up the old tree house and added another area for the boys to play on.The older boys want to show it to the younger boys tomorrow, and I think Revin will want to see it too.”
“And so will I!”
We continued chatting while we waited. Danny arrived home a few minutes later.After saying hello to Becky, he went upstairs to wash up before the others arrived, but they pulled into the driveway before he came downstairs again.It was obvious that the boys were excited as they raced to the front door and entered the foyer, and their excitement noticeably grew when Dobby and Flash came charging out of the family room and began jumping up on them.
“It looks like they missed you as well,” I teased.
“Yeah, I guess they did,” answered the twins simultaneously as they and the others petted both dogs.
“I had a blast,” Revin told his mother as I was going over to welcome Dion home.
“I’m glad you had a good time,” stated Becky, and then she turned to address Brandon and Dion.“And thank you for taking him with you.”
“It was our pleasure and he was no problem at all,” replied Brandon and then he looked around briefly before speaking again.“Where’s Danny?”
“He’s upstairs cleaning up, but he should be down shortly.He’s just as eager to see you, as you are to see him.”
I’d barely finished saying that when Danny came bounding down the stairs and he went directly over to Brandon and wrapped his arms around him.
“I’m glad you’re back, because I’ve missed you more than you can imagine.”
“Oh, I have a good idea about that, because I’ve missed you too, but it was nice to spend some time with my parents.”
“I hope they’re well.”
“They are, although considerably more tired and worn out than when we first arrived.”
“Yes, I’m sure it wasn’t easy for your mom and dad to keep up with this group.”
“Where’s Grandpa Josh?” asked Joshie.
“He won’t be home until tomorrow,” answered Pop.“He’s been doing a little traveling while you’ve been away and he’s with your Uncle Frankie and his girlfriend, Carolyn, right now.”
“K, I was just wonderin’ where he was.”
“Show them the pictures,” urged Wyatt.
“Not yet,” I responded.“Dinner’s just about ready, so we’ll eat first and then you can show us the photos after we finish.”
As soon as I told him that, I went over to whisper to Noah, Ryan, Elliot, and Ian.“Don’t say anything about the tree house, because I want the younger boys to be surprised when we take them out to see it.Let’s give them a chance to tell us about their trip first.”
“Ok,” Elliot agreed with Ian nodding his approval.“We can do that.”
“Yeah, it’s not a problem,” chimed in Noah and Ryan.
“I’m glad you understand.”
“How was your trip home?” asked Danny, bringing my attention back to the main group.
“It wasn’t too bad, although I thought we’d lost some luggage on the return trip,” Brandon answered.“We eventually found everything, but it took a while.”
“And getting through the security checkpoint in Texas took a while as well,” Dion added, “but that was because a couple people in the line ahead of us created some sort of a problem.I’m not sure what it was, but they were eventually escorted to another area and our line started moving again.”
“Yeah, it was kinda like something you’d see in a movie,” stated Joshie.
“I think they were probably spies or terrorists,” added Tristan.
“Don’t let your imaginations run wild,” warned Brandon.“They probably forgot their identification or had something in their carry-on that wasn’t allowed.”
“Yeah, maybe,” relented Tristan, although I could tell he wasn’t completely convinced.
A few minutes later I announced “dinner is served”, and we all took our seats around the table.While we were eating, the boys told us more about their trip, even though they’d given us nightly briefings on what they had been doing.I’m not sure if Revin called his mother as often, but I suspect this information was directed at the others, rather than for Danny and me.
Once we finished eating, we all went to the living room and sat down while Brandon loaded one photo at a time on his phone and passed it around as he explained the background story.As soon as we had all seen that photo, he’d pull the next one up and we repeat the process.He was doing this in the same sequence that they’d visited each of the places, and this continued until he pulled out the photo they had taken at the Fort Worth stockyards.
“Wow, this one makes you all look like you lived in the Old West,” exclaimed Becky when she saw it.
“It’s too bad you couldn’t have all been there with us, so you coulda been in the picture too,” added Tristan.
“Maybe we’ll get a chance to do something like that another time,” responded Danny.
“Yeah, that would be really neat,” the boys agreed.
After we’d all seen that photo, we went back to looking at the photos on Brandon’s phone.Once we had seen each of them and had heard about their entire trip, Becky thanked us for dinner and then she turned toward Dion and Brandon and thanked them again for taking Revin on the trip.After that, she told Revin to go get his suitcase because it was time to go home, and by the look on his face we could tell he wasn’t ready to leave yet, but to his credit he didn’t argue with his mom.He merely collected his suitcase, thanked Brandon and Dion personally, and followed his mother out to the car.
Shortly after they left, I asked the boys to fetch their dirty clothes out of their suitcases and take them to the laundry room.As they were doing that, I pulled Ryan aside.
“Starting tomorrow, I’m going to teach you how to do the laundry.”
“You mean I gotta do that too?”
“You’ll have to clean your own clothes when you get to college, unless you want to be known as the smelly guy.”
“But I’ll shower, so I won’t be smelly.”
“If you don’t wash your clothes they will still have enough of your body odor embedded in the fabric and others won’t want to be around you.”
“Did you teach Elliot, Noah, and Holly how to do their laundry before they went to college?”
“I didn’t, but your Grandpa Josh taught both Elliot and Noah during the summer before they left for college.I know, because I was here and saw him doing it.Holly already knew how to do it, since she used to do it for her mom.Seeing your grandfather is busy taking trips, I figured I’d teach you instead.”
“Oh, ok.I guess I can do that too.”
After the boys did as I asked and emptied their suitcases, Brandon, Danny, Dion, and I spent a little more time with them before they went upstairs to shower and get ready for bed.Dobby and Flash’s tails were wagging as they followed them upstairs, and the boys also seemed happy to be with them again.
After they finished getting ready for bed and we’d tucked them in, I took the pups downstairs with me so I could take them out one final time.I didn’t have the boys do it earlier, because I thought the pups would still be too excited that they were home and want to play with them instead.This way, I knew Dobby and Flash would take care of business first, and then I watched as they raced up the stairs to be with their young masters again.It was cute to see how happy they all were to be reunited, and I watched as both pups contentedly crawled into their beds and fell asleep.
The next morning everyone got up and got ready to go to church.I could tell the older boys were already getting antsy as we drove there and went inside, because they were eager to show the tree house to the younger boys.Their expressions seemed even more pained after the service ended and we stopped to have brunch before heading home.I think the other adults noticed this too, because the boys usually enjoyed doing this, but fortunately the younger group was oblivious to their antics.
“Where’s Danny?” asked Becky while we were eating.
“He’s working,” said Brandon.
“Yes, at least until he’s satisfied with the internship program he’s set up for this year.”
“Danny said things will be getting better by the time school starts in the fall,” I added.
“That’s good to hear,” she agreed.
As soon as we got to the house and the boys had changed their clothes, including Revin, because Becky had brought a change for him as well, and we all came together again.At that time, Elliot made an announcement.
“We’ve got something to show you guys.Grandpa Jake, Noah, Ryan, Owen, Ian, and I have spent a lot of time working on this, so we hope you enjoy it.Follow us outside and we’ll show it to you.”
“You mean you guys finished the tree house?” blurted out Joshie.
“Yes, and thank you for spoiling the surprise,” grumbled Elliot.
“We all knew you were going to do that,” followed Tristan.
“You may have known we were going to do it, but you couldn’t have been sure it was going to be the surprise,” snapped Elliot.“Come on and we’ll take you out there so you can see it.Are you and Benny coming to see it too?” he asked Joshie.
“Yeah, we might as well,” replied Joshie, and Benny agreed as well.
Pop went out with us as well, along with the other adults, because we all wanted to see the boys’ reactions.When we got there, Pop offered them a quick explanation.
“You have to climb up the chain ladder that is hanging down from the balcony area.It’s actually a fire escape ladder that is typically used as an emergency escape from a house, but it also works well here.It will be hanging down whenever no one is up there, but if you boys are in the tree house then you can pull it up and cover the hatch to keep anyone else from coming up.”
“Neat,” whispered the boys in unison.
“Just be very careful when you’re climbing up and down the ladder, because we don’t want anyone to fall and get hurt, and be careful when you’re in the tree house as well.There are railings around the balcony to keep you safe, but they’re not infallible or foolproof, so don’t take any unnecessary chances.”
“Ok, we won’t.”
“Ryan has agreed to go up with you so he can show you around, and he’ll explain everything to you.”
The rest of us remained below as the boys went up to investigate their new play area.Ryan showed them around the tree house first and pointed out the three windows.
“You can open them when you’re up here to get fresh air, or you can keep them closed for privacy or to keep out birds and other animals,” we heard Ryan explain.
After they’d investigated the main structure for a few minutes, Ryan led them back out to the balcony and over to the bridge.“You can walk across this to get to the other area we built for you to use – it’s a deck that you can play on too.”
“Neat,” they all chimed simultaneously as they headed across the bridge to check out the other area.After looking around there for a while, one of the twins asked a question.
“This is neat, but can we bring Dobby and Flash up here with us too?” Hunter wanted to know.
“Oh, that’s right, I forgot to show you an important feature back at the tree house,” Ryan answered, and then he led them over the bridge again.“Pop designed this so you can bring things up here safely, including Dobby and Flash.”
“And I helped him put it together,” Noah shouted out so the boys could hear.
Ryan then showed them how they could haul the old cooler up after they’d filled it with the things they wanted to bring up to the tree house with them.
“You’ll just have to bring Dobby and Flash up one at a time and watch them carefully so they don’t fall out or try to jump out,” warned Pop
“Ok, we’ll make sure they don’t do that,” chorused the boys.
“Can we sleep up here too?” shouted Tristan as he looked down at the adults.
“I suppose you can,” answered Brandon, “but it will get really dark in the tree house at night and you might hear animals moving about.”
“Don’t you have a lantern we can use at night?”
“Yes, we do, but you can’t leave it on all night long.”
“That’s ok.We’ll just shut the windows and door.”
“And Joshie and Benny can stay up here with us too,” suggested Wyatt.
“You’ll have to get them to agree to do that first,” responded Brandon.
To our surprise, Joshie and Benny climbed up the ladder to check out the tree house as well.We assumed they only did it because of Wyatt’s comment, and the rest of us prepared to walk back to the house so they could work this out on their own.Before we left, however, we noticed the puppies were sitting on the ground and whining as they looked up and watched the boys moving about.
“Guys, Dobby and Flash are down here whining because they want to be up there with you,” hollered Dion.
“Oh, yeah,” confirmed Tristan.“I’ll come down and put them in the cooler and then the others can pull them up.”
I’m not sure the puppies understood what he said, but their tails began wagging as he climbed down the ladder, so the rest of us continued on and went back to the house. Once we got there, Dion made a comment.
“Maybe we should look into buying a slide they can use as a faster way to get down from there, instead of climbing down the ladder.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” agreed Pop.“I could take down a small section of the handrail from the deck and we could put it over there, since they have the ladder and pulley at the tree house.”
“Yes, that would work,” agreed Brandon.
“Then I’ll go online to see if I can find something that will work,” offered Elliot.“I’ll do it just as soon as I help Grandpa Jake measure to see how long it will have to be.”
“Good idea,” I concurred.
The rest of us sat around and chatted about the tree house and other things until Becky was ready to go home.I agreed to be the bearer of bad news and went out to tell Revin it was time to leave.He wasn’t happy about this, but then I reminded him that he’d be coming back in the morning and spending the day with us while his mom was at work.
“Ok I’ll go then, cuz I know my mom wants to spend time with me too.”
Joshie and Benny came down at about the same time, and they were quick to make a comment.“I wish there was something like this when we were younger,” they concurred.
“There was, although it wasn’t in such good shape.If you had let us know that you wanted to use it, I’m sure we would have fixed it up for you.”
“Yeah, I guess we should have told you, but Noah and Elliot didn’t seem to want to use anything like that back then, so we didn’t think of it.”
“You’ll be able to make up for that now, because I have a feeling the younger boys are going to want you to join them when they sleep out here.”
“Yeah, we’ll do that,” Joshie agreed, “but we’re getting too old to be playing in tree houses.We’re gonna be in high school this year.”
“I know, but you don’t have to tell your friends you’re doing it, and if they find out some other way, you can just say you were doing it for your younger brothers.”
“Yeah, I guess we can do that,” replied Benny.
Danny arrived home in time to join us for dinner, and before we called the boys to eat, Elliot asked to speak with us first.
“Grandpa Jake and I measured to see if we could hook up a slide to the deck, but it would be too long and take up too much space unless it came down at a really steep angle.However, I found a Spiral Tube Slide with a 16-foot (4.9 m) deck height, and that would be perfect for either the deck or the tree house.If you want, I can show it to you.”
We all agreed to look at it, so he pulled it up on his laptop, and we quickly came to the decision that we’d get one for the deck and another for the tree house.The slides were also green in color, so it would blend in well with the wooded background.
“The boys can use it to come down more quickly in an emergency or just for fun, and they can teach the dogs to use it to get down as well, which will be much safer for all of them,” Danny commented.He hadn’t seen the tree house yet, but he remembered what it was like from when he was younger.
“I’m just worried that animals might try to either hide in it or make a nest there, since they’re tube slides,” I pointed out.“It would be a nasty situation if the boys slid into one of them.”
“Then we’ll buy a basketball to keep at the top of each slide and the boys can roll it down before anyone uses it,” suggested Brandon.“That should chase out any animals and the boys will be told not to go down it if they don’t see the basketball come out of the bottom opening, because we’ll have to check out why it got stuck.”
“And then they can put the basketball in the cooler so they can pull it up to use it again the next time,” added Dion.
“Then it sounds as if you’re all in agreement,” Pop observed.“I’ll hook them up as soon as they’re delivered.”
“Ok, but let’s keep this a secret until they get here,” offered Dion.“I think the boys will appreciate it more if it’s a surprise, and they won’t get as hyper while waiting for them to arrive.”
“Yes, let’s do that,” the others agreed.
Once we finished our discussion, Danny and Brandon walked out to tell the boys it was time to wash up for dinner, while at the same time giving Danny a chance to see the new set up.
“Wow, this is a lot nicer than I remember it from when I was younger, and the other area looks great too,” said Danny.“The slides will really add a nice touch,” he added in a whisper.
Shortly after they got back to the house, we all gathered around the table, and while we were eating, Wyatt asked a question.
“Can we eat lunch and dinner in the tree house sometimes?”
“I suppose you could,” I answered, “but you’ll have to make sure you sweep out all the crumbs and don’t leave any food lying around, or it will probably attract animals and insects.”
“Ewww, I didn’t think about that,” grimaced Wyatt.
“That includes any snacks you take up there as well,” added Danny.“We’ll get a broom you can keep up there and then you can just sweep everything out the door and off the balcony.”
“When will we be able to sleep up there?” followed Hunter.
After looking at Dion and Brandon, I answered for all of us.“You could probably do that any time.You can put your sleeping bags in the cooler and haul them up there, but keep them rolled up until you’re ready to use them, so animals don’t crawl inside.You can spread them out inside the tree house when you’re ready to go to sleep.”
“Can Revin do it with us too?” asked Tristan.
“Yes, but you’ll have to clear it with his mother first.”
“Benny and Joshie will you stay with us when we do that?” asked Wyatt.
“Yes, but only once in a while,” agreed Joshie, “but it will be kinda crowded with all of us in there.”
“There are shelves that we can put the other stuff on to make more room, and we can put the chairs out on the balcony too,” suggested Tristan.
“That will work out better, but we’re still not going to do it all the time,” warned Benny.
“Ummm, maybe once a week?” pressed Hunter.
“We’ll see, but if we do this for you,” answered Joshie, “it will only be until school starts again.”
As soon as the boys finished eating, they raced outside so they could go up in the tree house again, and they took the puppies with them.
“Just make sure that Dobby and Flash pee and poop before you take them up there,” I warned, “because they just ate too.If you don’t, then you’ll either have to take them down again later or end up with a mess in the tree house.”
“We’ll make sure they do both before we take them up to the tree house,” confirmed Tristan.
We didn’t see the boys again until it started getting dark.Shortly after they came inside, we sent them upstairs to get ready for bed.
“But it’s still early,” whined Hayden.
“You don’t have to go to sleep, just get ready for bed.Then you can do whatever you want until we tell you it’s time to turn in.”
Dobby and Flash followed the boys upstairs when they went up to shower, and then they followed them down again when the boys finished up.The boys played with the puppies until we told them it was time to turn in, and you could tell the boys and the puppies had missed one another.The puppies followed the boys upstairs as they went to hop in their beds, and then Dobby and Flash settled down in their own beds.They all looked very content when we went up to say good night to the boys and tuck them in.
When we got back downstairs, we immediately started chatting about how strange it was that Dad wasn’t around.“It always seems weird when he’s not here,” observed Dion.
“He’ll be coming home tomorrow,” responded Pop, “and then the two of us will be leaving next Saturday to go to Atlanta to visit Shannon and Nick.”
“Make sure you tell them we all said ‘hi’,” added Brandon.
“I will, but don’t expect us to call home every night like you guys did while you were in Texas.We’ll tell you all about our trip when we get back.”
“That’s fine and we only called home because the boys wanted to tell Danny and Trey about their trip.”
“I know.That was supposed to be a joke.”
“The rest of us got it, even if Brandon didn’t,” teased Danny.
“And you expect me to be nice to you when we go to bed?” countered Brandon.
“You know you will, because you want it too, just like last night.And Dion and Trey will you try to keep the noise down tonight.We heard your headboard banging against the wall until early this morning.”
“Hey, we missed each other,” replied Dion with a smirk.
“Yeah, we had a lot of time to make up for,” I added in support of my lover.
“Ok, you win,” relented Danny.
This caused us to bring our discussion to a hasty conclusion and we all headed for the stairs.
“Oh, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine,” teased Pop.
“And you’ll be even better and just like us when Dad gets here,” countered Dion.
Pop merely smiled as he walked into his bedroom and the rest of us headed upstairs.