As a youngster, Jason Wester of Tupelo wanted a treehouse in his backyard. It was an unfulfilled wish until his daughter, Flannery, came along.
"I've always said one of the coolest things about having a kid is getting to live vicariously through them," 35-year-old Wester said.
He'd been reading books and making plans on the treehouse project for years. Before hitting a single nail with a single hammer, Wester had a fairly accurate idea of what he wanted and, by extension, of what Flannery wanted.
The problem was time. He teaches English at Northwest Community College in Senatobia, and that's a three-hour round-trip commute from Tupelo each day.
He's also spent the past six years working toward a Ph.D. in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
But there was a break in the action earlier this year, when Wester gave his adviser a rough draft of his dissertation, "Dropped into the Deep End: A Study of Personal Journals in First-year Compositions."
"Also, a handy thing is that I got my tax return at about the same time" Wester said.
He devoted his weekends to building the treehouse in time for Flannery's fifth birthday on March 13. Though he has no background in carpentry, Wester made the deadline without having to call in reinforcements.
"I would've asked for help if I'd needed it, but, ultimately, I didn't need it," he said. "It took me five weekends."
His wife, Chrissie, made a few suggestions about the design of the 6-foot-wide, 8-foot-deep structure. Flannery provided crucial input, as well.
"She picked the pinkest of pinks," Wester said.
Flannery's original plan was to paint the outside pink, but her dad thought that would be a horrible thing to do to the neighbors.
The outside is a pale blue-green with brown accents, and it's covered by a tin roof. Wind chimes hang between two pots of yellow lantana, and there's a butterfly with a welcome sign near the brown door.
Flannery got her way on the inside, and helped her dad paint the walls.
"We were covered in pink, weren't we?" Wester said, and his daughter nodded.
Flannery's happy to have visitors. Mom and Dad are welcome just about any time, though visitation rights for her 1-year-old sister, Chloe, are on a more conditional basis.
"It's sturdy," Wester said. "We can all get up here."