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Wednesday, February 3, 2021

In which the mini-house gets a second chance

When I first joined up with the Farmer 14 years ago and moved onto the farm, I was quite taken by the tiny miniature farmhouse in the backyard. The Farmer had built it himself, as a playhouse for his two little girls. By the time I arrived, it had already been sitting idle and unused for a few years.

I pulled the rickety screen door open and pushed the wooden one in. Crouching down, I could just fit myself inside. There was a perfect replica kitchen with upper and lower cupboards and a tiny sink. A child-sized table and chairs sat under a window with floral curtains. There was a set of stairs to a loft, where someone once had a nap or maybe camped out. The blanket was still there.

Under the stairs, a mosquito net hung down over a bassinet, protecting the pretend princess that lay inside, eyes closed. Dreaming.

As the girls became teens and moved out, we watched the tiny playhouse slowly fall apart. Wind blew the shingles off the roof and bricks fell out of the chimney. A groundhog family tunnelled beneath the house, causing the floor to cave in. Raccoons took up residence inside and clawed their way through the screens when the door was closed.

I still thought the house was beautiful, if in a slightly haunted way. It was front and centre in all of my sunset photos for the next several years.

Then, one day, my daughter had a daughter. I asked the Farmer if we could fix up the little playhouse and he said, “No – I’m afraid it is beyond repair.” I stuck my head into the house to survey the damage. It didn’t look that bad to me. But what do I know?

By the time our granddaughter turned 2, she was totally fascinated with the little playhouse. She would stand on the tiny porch and peek in the window. She understood it was unsafe to go inside, with the broken floor. But that didn’t stop her imagining that a witch or a fairy lived inside.

Our granddaughter is now 5. The other day, the Farmer surprised me. “You will have to make sure there are no wasps in there,” he started, “but if you can clean it up, I will put in a new floor.”

The playhouse is getting a second chance to entertain children. And since she is old enough to wield a paintbrush now, our granddaughter will be enlisted to help give the house a new coat of paint.

I told her to choose a colour that her sister will like too.