Goodbye to the Plastic Home of Childhood

Recently we sold off another vestige of childhood: the little plastic playhouse that lived in our backyard for six years. Everyone was sad to see it go, except me, as I dreamed of how we’d fill the spot in the backyard. Once it was dismantled and driven away by the new owner, I was caught off guard when I looked at the empty space where the house was and, instead of potential, I saw a gap. A little part of my kids’ childhood, a little part of our history, was sold away for $60.

The house had to go. My husband argued that the kids still played with it, which is true, but they played with it by climbing on the roof and looking into our neighbor’s yard. It wasn’t how either I or the manufacturer had intended, and I was worried someone would get hurt. We bought the play house the same time we bought our real house. We wanted our then 18 month old daughter (and only child at the time) to love our new house and make the move less traumatic. We won her over with plastic – a new plastic house and a plastic slide. I can still picture her playing with the toys, a tiny thing with chunky pure white sandals, who could stand straight up as she walked through the door. At age seven, just before the house left, she had to hunch over like Quasimodo to get in. That is when she wasn’t entering the house Dukes of Hazard style, through the window.

The little house started out on our deck, but it moved to a wood chip area after our deck furniture grew larger. Both of our kids loved playing in the house, even when it rained because the roof kept out the water better than some real houses I’ve known. As the kids grew, they played with it less and less, moving on to the real play structure in our backyard. We held onto the house for nostalgic reasons, but then last year we built a vegetable bed near the plastic house. That’s when I started looking at the space taken up by the house and considering all of the better possibilities for the spot: an herb bed, a chicken coop, a spot for a tree or a bench. The more I planned, the more the house needed to go. I expected to keep it one more year until I realized the kids had not played inside the house once this summer and then there was the day that I went outside during a play date and found all four kids on the roof of the house. It was time to go.
It sold immediately on the local mother’s club list, as most big plastic toys do. After the sale, I walked back into the house and saw the open spot from the window. Left behind was the little welcome mat that had sat at the entry way to the house. The wood chips were darker, having been protected by the house from the sun and fading. I was suddenly sad.

I was glad we had sold the house to a family with an eighteen month old child, the same age my daughter was when we bought the house. The house would go on to be loved, just not by the chunky fingers of my unsteady toddlers, grasping onto the window frame for support or the even the daring climb of a three year old when he scaled the house to sit on the roof for the first time. It wasn’t the house, it surely wasn’t the plastic, but it was the reminder that time is racing by. Along with the baby clothes, the crib, and other symbols of young life, it’s never the thing that’s being lost, it’s the time. Holding onto the house wouldn’t keep my kids little, but losing it was sad, just the same.

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