I rolled down the window and listened. I waited to hear the sound of laughter from two little girls playing in the yard. But all I could hear was the sound of a lawnmower in the distance. Our long dirt driveway is paved now and doesn’t seem long at all. I may not go back for a while; it’s too sad. Behind the house are new houses springing up. They are close together and the yards are tiny. When I was little the area was thickly wooded; it was full of mystery, and I played there often. The new houses have violated a sacred area and I resent them. If children occupy any of those houses then they have no place to build a playhouse. There’s no place to explore and be hidden from the world. The overgrown pasture has been replaced with houses also. That’s where I made a hideout one summer many years ago.
I tried to look back into my memories and once again see the trees behind our house. Making a playhouse is missing in today’s world. It’s been replaced with TV, Facebook, iPads and texting. How very sad it makes me feel to see young children walking along aimlessly staring at their phone. I can’t explain making a playhouse to them. All it really takes is imagination, some discarded items from the kitchen, rocks of different sizes, and a discarded box is certainly useful.
I remember my house in the woods. First I swept out a clearing with one of Mama’s old brooms. Next I lined a circle with assorted rocks. They were plentiful there in the woods; some were partially sunk down in the ground. I was limited to only using the ones I could lift and carry.
I took smaller rocks and made a stove over in a corner. We had a china berry tree in our front yard. Its berries could serve as fruit. Daisies make wonderful eggs. If you prefer scrambled, then just rub them between your fingers. Dandelions can be used if you can’t find daisies. They’re for people who just like the yolk. I believe the family that lived in our house before we did threw unwanted items out into the woods. I found broken dishes and little jelly glasses.
There were also nails and once I stepped on a rusty one. It hurt real bad and Daddy let me soak my foot in coal oil. I never contracted tetanus, which Mama and Daddy called lock jaw. I personally believe a coal oil derivative is used in many of the wound dressings of today. It has a healing power for almost any sore or wound.
Once the playhouse was finished then you could invite people to visit. I would run into the house excited, “Mama, come and see my house, please!”
Mama was always busy, “I’ll come in just a minute. I’ve got to watch my cornbread first.” Mama would always come but just for a short visit.
“It’s real good, Kaye, it’s real good.”
She was too old to play and I knew it, but I wish she could have shown a little more excitement.
Wilma was always good at making things. Sometimes she charged money but I didn’t have any. For free she made me a little bench out of scrap wood to sit on. She found a box and it served as a table. Mama gave me an old doily to place on it.
Wilma advised me, “You need a little walkway leading up to your house.”
This was the most fun of all. I outlined it with rocks but it was too narrow and I had to re-do it.
I was particular about who got invited. Not taking criticism very well I couldn’t chance someone’s disapproval. Absolutely no boys were allowed. That’s because they like to tear up things. They might knock the rocks out of line or just kick up dust everywhere. I decided to stick with Wilma. Since she helped some she wouldn’t be critical.
One of my regular visitors was Blackie. Blackie was a little dog I had when I was very young. I had a little doll stroller but no doll. Blackie would ride in the stroller as long as I would push it. He even let me dress him up like a baby.
So often I have wanted to turn back time. If some child asked me to see their playhouse I would probably react much like Mama did. There would be unfinished chores going through my mind and interrupting my thoughts. But I would stay longer and try to recapture that feeling only a child possesses. How nice it would be to never grow up — just be like Peter Pan. But that’s not normal or healthy. That’s why memories and imagination are so important and vital as we grow older. Memories are a good thing.
Kaye Steadman lives in Chickamauga. She is a storyteller, published writer, and author of the book "My Name's Not Verly.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Facebook.