In the mid-60s my father built a playhouse across the yard from the farmhouse. A miniature suburban bungalow painted with a strip of white and a strip of robin’s-egg blue so that it contrasted with the other buildings on the farm. Later the blue was changed to the reddish-brown Hereford cattle colour that matched all of the other buildings. You can spot it through the kitchen window and across the yard in my first post:

The house appears to be tiny, but this is partly illusion: Dad had dug it into the side of the hill in the shelter of the chokecherry trees. The door was around behind, on the north side, and the ceiling was over six feet high, so that an adult could comfortably stand. It was wired with an electric overhead light (operated by a genuine light switch on the wall by the door) and 110 volt sockets connected on a circuit to the house. There was fibreglass insulation in the walls so that it could be heated comfortably in winter, and Dad had installed a fireplace and chimney on the west wall (a fake fireplace: an electric heater sat in the wooden hearth). There was an intercom to communicate with the farmhouse. The walls of the six-by-ten foot room were clad with wood panelling below a wainscoting, and painted drywall over top.  It was all a perfect replication of a grown-ups house, and it was our space entirely.

Heather and I held many a tea party there in the first year or two of its construction. Later it became the prime sleepover spot. Four boys or four girls could fit quite comfortably. We would play boardgames until all hours without keeping everyone else awake. Sometimes when it got too late and they could see the light still on, Mom or Dad would flip the breaker and plunge us into darkness for a moment to signal that it was time to sleep.

There was no proper foundation and by the time I was in my early 20s, the joists under the linoleum floor had rotted. Dad packed it with straw bales and turned it into a cat house: felines tame and feral lived there in winter, entering through a hole he made in the centre of the plastic window.

There are no longer even cats living there. Maybe mice.

The chokecherry tree has begun to swallow it up.


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