For months, and now years, we have all sent our wishes to Austin, written on paper, on keyboards and in our hearts. We’ve wished for broad ideas like strength and happiness, health and peace. We’ve wished he’ll reach regular childhood milestones like going to kindergarten and learning to ride a bike. We’ve wished for health-related miracles like “no more cancer” and kidneys that keep filtering. We’ve wished well into the future for finding true love and fishing with his grandchildren.
But until now, we’ve never asked Austin for his own wish. And he has one. It’s not huge, just a typical kid’s wish, one he told me completely unprovoked one day last December as he lay in his hospital bed recovering from surgery: “Mommy, I want to build a treehouse in our new backyard.”
Well, okay, I thought, if ever a child was going to get a treehouse, it would be this one. So a few months ago when we got our Make-A-Wish packet in the mail, I immediately thought of Austin and his dream treehouse.
We hadn’t been eligible for Make-A-Wish his first time through cancer because he was too young. You have to be at least two to ensure that it is indeed the child’s wish that is being fulfilled. (As opposed to, say, a parent like me who might — just might — say something like, “Oh yeah, Austin? He’s always wished to have a playdate with Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. Uh huh, always, lifelong dream. And he really wants to have that playdate at her house, you know, the villa in the South of France? Oh, and he insists that Mommy come along with him so she can hang out with Shiloh’s parents and sip some French wine on the lawn of said villa.”)
Joking aside, we’ve also been uncertain about whether or not we would take advantage of Make-A-Wish at all, seeing as we can afford to build a treehouse ourselves. But Austin’s doctor and especially his nurses convinced us that this is not for poor children but for sick children, and that they will make it into a memorable experience beyond just producing a thing, and that Austin deserves fulfillment of his wish as much as anyone.
So we sent back our papers and met with our Wish coordinators on Monday. They came over with gifts for both boys (of course) so we could fill out paperwork and flesh out some of the details of Austin’s imagined treehouse. Well, you know once they got the boys started on what it should have, they went wild: swings and slides and fire poles and telescopes and Braedan even suggested that it have a really high ceiling so we could fit a trampoline inside it (somehow I don’t think that one’s gonna make the final cut). Then they asked what it should look like and they started out simple — Austin likes red — but suddenly moved into interesting shapes like maybe it should be a t-rex or a pirate ship or a rocket ship or even an airplane that crashed and got stuck in a tree!
We’ll see what the team of volunteers comes up with but so far the boys are thrilled with the very idea of it, and Make-A-Wish has already achieved its purpose of making them feel special and happy, and giving them something to be excited about outside of hospitals and doctors and sickness. Which is, after all, what we all wish for them.