Walking through the woods one afternoon, a funny thought struck me. “Dane,” I said, “how many teenage guys do you know who like to buy dishes and play house?” We both laughed.
Those familiar with children will affirm that little girls delight in playing house while boys prefer charging through the woods eluding phantom enemies or chasing imaginary animals. I know I always preferred the latter.
But some years ago, a friend gave us some 2x4s and plywood, all of them a certain odd length and width. Never one to rest when worthy materials present themselves, Dane drew up plans for an 8×12 cabin. His motives included upgrading from his double bed-sized cabin, and incorporating a homemade aluminum stove into the new building.
One by one we framed up and raised the walls. A hand peeled lodgepole ridge beam followed. After tar papering the roof and hanging the door, we considered our accomplishment. This cabin was four times larger than our previous one. It boasted a vaulted ceiling which allowed ample headroom, even when the lantern hung from the ridge beam. We now had four windows instead of two.
Things seldom go as planned; homemade stoves and mothers do not get along. Though Dane’s design and construction succeeded, the homemade stove remained outside.
Just as we prepared to furnish the place, everything changed. A generous building center gave Dane a load of scrap insulation. Cedar ceiling and birch veneer wall paneling came next. An antique sheepherders stove took up residence inside.
Like all projects, ours remains almost finished. Those final, pesky details still hang around. A strip of insulation atop the door is missing. Glass window panes have yet to replace clouded plastic ones. Once full usability is achieved, the labor-to-improvement ratio lunges toward the labor side. Those last jobs require a seeming mountain of effort for a comparative molehill of benefit. Consequently, these jobs often wait.
But the cabin is fully usable – stove, table, seats, even two bunks (on which I’ve spent many narrow nights) grace its interior. There are dishes, too. Dishes which we bought expressly to improve the quality of our playing house experience. Being a haven from all things modern (yes, it’s out of Wi-Fi range) we have decorated our cabin with antiques. The aforementioned sheepherders stove, its centennial long since past, faithfully percolates our coffee. Antique stoneware crocks house miscellaneous items, and ninety year old editions of “Tom Sawyer” and “Jo’s Boys” lean against a 1918 history of “The Great War.” Rawhide snowshoes hang from the ceiling. All light comes from oil lamps and a Coleman lantern. All communication to the cabin comes on foot. It is an oasis of sorts. A safe haven for those tired of real life, those who simply want to play. Granted, the dishes must be washed, firewood must be gathered, but so too little girls must clean their rooms before playing house in them.
Winter days are most pleasant at the cabin. The stove keeps the little place toasty warm. The lantern illuminates the worn pages of Moby Dick. Steam slithers from the spout of the teapot. A silent, dreamy atmosphere pervades. No one speaks. When darkness falls the fire is banked and the cabin’s occupants slide into warm sleeping bags. Though dreams may take them elsewhere, just being in the cabin is as good as any dream.