Stanardsville senior creates treetop retreat

By Susan Gibbs

Jean Weeks of Stanardsville believes in making dreams come true.

Jean Weeks finally got the treehouse she'd imagined as a child when she retired

But when the 67-year-old Stanardsville resident told her family and friends that she  wanted to build herself a tree house, they told her she was nuts.

“I said, well, nuts or not, I’m going to do it,” she smiles. “I’ve always been a tomboy at heart, and now that my children are grown, I want the tree house I dreamed about as a child, but never had.”

Weeks explains that she was the youngest of three children growing up in a household maintained by a single mother and run on a shoestring.

“We were poor, and did not have much except access to books. Some of my favorites were Mark Twain’s stories about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn,” Weeks says.

As a child, she made forts and houses out of cardboard and imagined herself participating in adventures with Tom and Huck—but in reality the closest she came was fishing off the bank of the Albemarle County reservoir with her uncle.

But making her childhood wish come true entered the realm of possibility after Weeks and her husband purchased an old farmhouse, complete with five acres and a pond, and started making improvements to both the house and the property.

Weeks claimed a piece of land adjacent to the pond for a gathering place and gained support for her tree house.

“My husband and I were always here working on the house; my son and daughter-in-law wanted to keep a horse or two here, and their grandkids were always coming over,” Weeks recalls. “It seemed like we were always here, so I said, ‘why don’t we build a tree house and make it a family thing?’

“We checked with an engineer to make sure our plan would be safe and solid,” Weeks continues. “Family and friends helped cement in some cedar posts and build a platform, we bought a small gazebo to be assembled on the platform, bolted it down, applied a bit of slab wood for rustic appeal,” and voila!

The tree house that Weeks had dreamed about when she was a youngster had become a reality.

“I think young,” Weeks says. “The closer I get to the end the more I think about the early years when the children were young, when we didn’t have the money to do anything, and then saving and saving for a rainy day …this is where I have put some of my rainy day money.”

Weeks outfitted the interior with a microwave oven that can run on batteries, camp stove, seating, and planted a flower garden around it.

These days, family and friends play volleyball and horseshoes in the gathering place anchored by the tree house, take a turn in the swing, or enjoy intimate conversations inside.

“I like to invite people up to share lunch, some conversation, or just some quiet time,” Weeks says. “Just an hour or so here can recharge you for an entire day.

In fact, Weeks often spends time in the tree house alone, catching up on her reading, watching her Golden Retriever, “Fuzzy,” swim in the pond, or simply savoring nature.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to be in touch with nature … evenings, in particular, there is so much beauty here to suck in and be entertained by,” Weeks says, noting the geese flying overhead, referencing the deer that often wander leisurely across the property. “It’s about serenity.”

But with the big wish now a reality, there are other, lesser wishes to be fulfilled.

“We’d like to set up an archery practice area, stock the pond so we can watch the little ones fish … and get rid of all the weeds,” she says, nodding toward the flower garden.

“I’m going to have an artist friend make me a sign that tells people that they can get in for free, but to leave they have to take two handfuls of weeds.”

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