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My dad is a good dad. Not just a good man, but a good dad. When we moved into this house, when I was in second grade, he built us a playhouse. It was a nice big playhouse, though he never quite finished the roof, or mounted a door. The windows were sheets of clear plastic. We dealt with a leaking roof by cutting a hole in the floor for drainage. It was so blue it hurt to look at in the winter, and it sat right outside my bedroom window. It was a space station, an orphanage, a restaurant, and a den for lions and wolves together. Briefly, it was my bedroom, when sharing eighty square feet with my little sister got too offensive to an adolescent's sensitivities. Its last gasp of usefulness was as a house for three rabbits, who thoroughly destroyed the linoleum floor.

I had no use for it through high school, of course, and neither did my sister in her turn, four and a half years younger.

But Mother did.

She hung a velvet curtain for a door, and painted over two of the three windows, built rickety shelves along all the walls, and turned it into her own workroom. She ran an extension cord out under the back door and around the corner of the house, and hung lamps inside and out the little shack.

It's been ten years, now, since I left high school. The playhouse is dilapidated and ugly, painted one inadequate coat of green over that old blue paint. It's listing to the north, decidedly trapezoidal. It's a blight on the property, even with the new roof.

I can't see that roof without feeling a certain discomfort. It shouldn't be there. The rest of us, my sister and Father and I, want the playhouse to be gone. We'd like nothing more than to tear it down, as we did the old garage when it was its time to go. But Mother, through years of persistent battle, convinced Father to put up the trusses and sheeting. There's a pile of mouldering shingles under five years of cedar fallings that she means to use to waterproof the plywood, and no amount of reason can convince her otherwise.

And why is she keeping this shack? It's no longer her workshop. When we remodeled, the largest room in the house was given over to her, the entire upstairs of the large new addition. But that space is full. So too is the attic of the original part of the house. And a corner of the garage. And the room she shares with my father. And the space that will be our linen cabinet, if it's ever empty long enough to be finished.

In what used to play my playhouse, now, the remains of those rickety shelves are filled with molding magazines and snail-eaten boxes full of ruined fabric. But those magazines might have an idea in them she's never heard before. And that fabric might be saved if she can only wash and sort and iron it. Someday. And that playhouse might endure as long as the one that her dad brought home, the one that still, half a century later, sits in her mother's yard at the edge of the wood. Full of discarded things that might someday be useful. For it to be torn down would be a waste, an unendurable waste, the destruction of her own memories and plans. She's ready to fight to keep hold of those; she always will be.

I want to look out my bedroom window and see the trees of our back yard. We have a small forest on our small city lot. We have cedar and madrona, douglas fir and laurel, lilac and holly and dogwood and apple. Just like her father's playhouse, ours is set against a background of beauty. But all I see, sitting here at my desk in my old bedroom and typing before the window, is my childhood squatting there beneath the cedar tree, mildewing and filled with scraps and could-bes.



( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 19th, 2010 12:57 am (UTC)
This was really beautiful and a great reflection on how some people hold onto old memories while others look forward to building new ones.
Dec. 20th, 2010 01:34 am (UTC)
That's a good concise take on it.
Dec. 19th, 2010 02:50 am (UTC)
Ug. Sounds like it definitely needs to go. Hording old things is an easy habit for some people to get into and a hard one to give up.
Dec. 20th, 2010 01:35 am (UTC)
It's not a habit, it's a disorder.
Dec. 20th, 2010 01:43 am (UTC)
I wasn't trying to imply that it was less than it is. I wasn't clear from the entry if it had reached disorder status. I apologize if I offended you, but I am well aware that it can be and is a disorder.
Dec. 19th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
Is your mother a hoarder? Regardless, really descriptive and lovey. Great piece.
Dec. 20th, 2010 01:35 am (UTC)
Oh yes, very much so. Thank you.
Dec. 19th, 2010 09:23 pm (UTC)
You described this wonderfully. It can be very hard to let go of our old stuff. I understand that pack rat mentality but was forced to consolidate when moving into tinier quarters.
Dec. 20th, 2010 01:35 am (UTC)
Thank you. That's why I'm reasonably sure my mother will never move again.
Dec. 22nd, 2010 02:37 am (UTC)
I hear you. Moving would force the issue, of course.
Tough situation.
Dec. 20th, 2010 06:40 am (UTC)
This entry could have also worked for "Elephant in the Room".

I too had a similar playhouse! It's now a garden shed. I loved it, but it was too prone to spiders for me to sleep out there more than a couple times.
Dec. 20th, 2010 06:56 am (UTC)
I can't even visit my mother's house anymore, because I hate being in a place where people are secondary to piles and piles of stuff.
Dec. 20th, 2010 02:31 pm (UTC)
Something not unlike this has happened to the entire house I grew up in. I sympathize. :/
Dec. 20th, 2010 10:52 pm (UTC)
So sad. Hoarding is an awful thing, because it affects those around the person just as much as the hoarder themselves.
Dec. 21st, 2010 08:54 am (UTC)
I'm kind of reminded of those hoarding shows. I'm sure it's nowhere near that bad with your mom, but people's hoarding habits are always really taxing on the family.

One criticism that I have is that I didn't really understand the bit "My dad is a good dad. Not just a good man, but a good dad. " I didn't get the explanation for why. Because he built the play house? Because he put up with your mom's hoarding tendencies?
Dec. 21st, 2010 08:22 pm (UTC)
Beautifully written! Some people can never let go.
Dec. 21st, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC)
I empathize with your mom. :) I,too, have trouble letting things go, although I'm getting better at it. :) I can see yous side too about how it's time to let go - lovely entry!
Dec. 22nd, 2010 12:19 am (UTC)
Aww, I have a hard time letting things go too. I'm sure I'd be "planning" to refinish the doll house if I were in her place as well.
Dec. 22nd, 2010 12:33 am (UTC)
I really liked this entry, it resonated with me. I have a hard time letting go, a kind of an emotional attachment to things, it's a pack-rat behavior I think I inherited from my mom. Thankfully it never grew into full-blown hoarding, but my pile of projects "to complete" is much bigger than those I've gotten to.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )