My dad and I built my first and only cubby house when I was five. It changed my life. The cubby was the scene of much fun and laughter, and eventually became the location for intensely fun activities.
I was lucky to be very smart from a young age, and so I learnt a lot by helping dad build my cubby. Many of those things learnt were quite unexpected. My father is methodical, just not very practical. He is an accountant, which hardly imbues carpentry skills in any shape or form. Therefore, by necessity, it became my job to interpret the plans. Otherwise, I mostly just handed him nails and lengths of timber.
My mom was a research scientist doing stem cell research. She knew how to use a microscope, but not a hammer, so no help was forthcoming from the maternal parental unit.
We started the construction by laying out all the supplied timber in easily identifiable piles. It soon became more complex than my father could handle...
“Pass me the timber labeled number four, please, and some of the large nails.” Dad requested.
“Don’t you want number three first?” I queried.
“Fu ... Damn. You’re right. Number three first then.”
“I don’t think it goes there. And I think you have it upside down.”
My dad started hammering. “OW! Fuck that hurts.”
And so on. I could see slow but steady progress was being made.
On the practical side, I was learning how to suck your finger when you hit said finger with the hammer instead of the hitting the intended nail.
“What does damn and fuck mean, Dad?”
“What? Well grownups sometime use certain words to vent their frustration or when in pain.” My dad carefully replied. “So the exact meaning doesn’t really apply most of the time.” He clarified.
“But I’d like to know.” I stated with my best puppy dog look on my face.
“Ok, here’s the deal. Once you can grow a beard I’ll let you know.” Was my dad’s frustrating reply. Ugg, growing a beard? Disgusting! “Oh, and Tim, don’t use those words in front of your sister, and especially not your Mom.”
Perplexed I replied, “But Mom already knows those words and more.” My dad stopped working and looked up at me with an apprehensive look. “That’s why I’m asking you. She just said ‘later, ‘ when I asked; which means never.”
My dad sighed. Dad does a lot sighing. Come to think of it, mom also sighs a lot.
“Can we alter my cubby to have a chimney for Santa to use?” I asked, as Santa was very important to me.
“Your stocking is hung up next to your bed, so Santa will always use our house’s chimney,” my dad explained. “Besides, your cubby is not all that big. What if you get a Roo and a Croc for Christmas?” My dad kidded me with a grin.
“The Croc would eat the Roo if it could catch it. Besides, I don’t have a stocking, we always use a pillow slip.” I corrected him. “It is bigger!” I proudly informed him. I already realised older girls may like getting small presents, but little boys like me loved big presents. I accepted his reasoning on the lack of need for a Santa chimney as I have a logical mind.
The cubby was finally finished, with many more heartfelt sighs from my dad, with much shaking of finite fragile fingers, suffering from many heavy heartless hammer blows.
My sister Suzie, who is one year older than I am, came out to inspect the finished cubby. Being the bossy one of us two, she immediately demanded her own cubby.
Dad was still nursing throbbing fingers, so he said, “Next Christmas!” to much wailing and gnashing of teeth by my sister. I realised my dad is nothing but fair in his even treatment of us, even though I think he had a quiet sob, later in private, at the thought of the pain coming to him next Christmas.
So I was forced to share my cubby for a year. It was no real hardship, as I liked playing with my sister - even though she is bossy.
Next Christmas, Suzie’s duplicate cubby was dutifully if reluctantly constructed with much paternal blood, sweat and fingers sacrificed to the cubby house gods. Using the side wall of my cubby as a common wall, they were attached together like mini Terrace houses, but without the flower pots growing exotic “herbs”. My dad had not learnt any practical skills in the past year. Therefore Suzie this time was the recipient of similar impromptu, impressive and unexpected lessons, as I previously had, on finger sucking and the increasing of her vocabulary. I had retreated to my cubby, as I knew by now when to disappear.
Once her cubby was finished, Suzie immediately got me to help move all her toys and dolls into her new cubby. She then shoo’ed me out, and shut the door in my face!
She could have at least thanked me, or let me watch her play with her silly dolls. I grumbled to myself.
I could hear her arranging her things “You will look good here. You can guard the door. No, you can’t have a cup of tea yet.”
Normal Suzie chatter.
“What are you doing?” Suzie asked me after a while.
“Nothing.” I replied.
“This is boring!” Exclaimed Suzie with a huff. She is good at huffing.
“Do you want me to come over to your side?” I asked trying to be helpful. “We can play like we always do.”
“What’s the fun in having my own cubby if you’re in it?” She said irritably.
“How about we knock down the wall between us which will make us one big cubby? “ I suggested.
“Cool.” Suzie agreed happily. “I’ll get the hammer.”
So we knocked out the common wall to make one big cubby. Much fun was had with the hammer doing this! Also, no sucking of fingers was required! The gods must have been satisfied with the already offered paternal sacrifices. Plus, our dad was no where to be seen. I think he said he would be needing Post Trauma therapy before he would go near a hammer again. I looked that up as I was worried about how much he was talking to himself. It didn’t look promising for any cubby extensions!
Sharing this bigger cubby was fine with just the two of us. Eventually, though, girl cooties and boy bugs were raised as issues by our friends. So, we took turns in using it when our friends came over to play and hangout.
When our friends weren’t with us, Suzie took to using me as a pillow, even though I was skinny and therefore pretty bony. I didn’t mind as I got to stroke her beautiful golden hair. This made her “purr” with pleasure, reinforcing this activity until her using me as a pillow became a habit.
I was jealous of my sister as the colour of my hair was more of a silvery blonde. So I went to my parents and asked “Why can’t I have gold hair, too?”
“We used up all our gold on Suzie, so we had to use Grandma’s silver for your hair.” Mom responded with a straight face.
“Stainless steel cutlery is so much more practical, anyway. No tarnishing, so Grandma would have been happy.” I stated knowingly.
I then asked the obvious next question, “Why doesn’t my hair oxidise?” having been reading my mom’s university chemistry books.
“Must be your shampoo.” My dad joked.
“What colour hair would a third sibling have had?” I questioned further, making my dad laugh at mom. I think mom was starting to develop a Tim look, halfway between frustration and something else.
“A bronze baby,” my dad replied with a smirk.
I don’t think I can trust all of my dad’s answers!
We were firm believers in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Who wouldn’t be, what with all the loot to be gained.
Suzie told me, (I should say, ordered me), “We will believe in the tooth fairy until we both run out of teeth.”
At the time this seemed to be going to happen sooner rather than later. One or the other of us were always missing a tooth or had a tooth starting to get wobbly. It was encouraging for us to see new teeth growing back. A never ending supply of money, or so we thought at the time.
I was down to my last wobbly front baby tooth when my sister decided to help it along. She did like to be in control. She would speed up or stop time if she could. Hence I was standing in the open bathroom doorway with a string running from my tooth to the doorknob.
“I don’t like this.” I said, my voice quavering uncontrollably, and with tears in my eyes.
“Don’t be such a baby,” exclaimed my sister impatiently.
“But it will fall out by itself!”
“It won’t get lost this way,” my sister told me.
“But,” SLAM! “Ow, ow, ow!” I whimpered clutching my mouth.
“AWK,” from Suzie.
She had swallowed my flying tooth! She had slammed the door pretty hard.
““CACK, argh, gross,” croaked Suzy with bulging eyes.
“What about my tooth? The tooth fairy won’t leave me any money!”
“Fuck your tooth and the money!” Suzie angrily responded. I could see dad’s language lessons were already being put to good use.
Suzie ran into the kitchen. “Mom, mom. I swallowed the tooth! “ she exclaimed. “Please get it back out!”
My confused mom asked “Isn’t Tim the one with a wobbly tooth?”
Once she found out what had happened, mom reassured Suzie that swallowing my tooth was not going to kill her. “Do not attach string to any other teeth ... or to any other parts of Tim’s anatomy,” she warned Suzie, which knowing Suzie as well as I did, only reassured me partially.
.... There is more of this story ...