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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.
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How... do you start trying to make chicken casserole and wind up making fish soup and not get what you've done wrong?
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Box-mix strogonoff can go horribly, horrible bad.

I have meat... and noodles... covered in a sauce that looks distressingly...



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April 2013

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