It’s school holiday time in this Great Southern Land of ours, and we have been blessed with some wonderful spring days: the sun has been blazing up the blue, keeping the chill from the afternoon sea breezes at bay. Blossoms are budding. I’ve started sneezing more (a lot more). And the kids have been relishing the opportunity to play — raucously, for hours — in the back yard.
So far, these holidays, there have been no casualties.
Well, not until Friday afternoon, that is. Marvel Girl came belting into the house, barefoot and wild-haired, shrieking at the top of her lungs: “The cubby house! The cubby hoooouuuuuse!”. She was closely followed by Miss Malaprop, wide-eyed and aghast, wailing that, “It’s fallen over! And the roof has come off…and now it’s broken“. These last words were uttered at a whisper, her hushed tone no doubt adopted in anticipation of the maternal tirade they both expected to follow.
“Well, that was good timing!” I responded brightly, “We have Council clean up this weekend, so we can put it out for collection. Let’s have a look at it.” Two pairs of eyes, one dark greeny-brown, the other light greeny-blue, watched me suspiciously. Surely they were not going to get away with this so easily?
Like most siblings, Marvel Girl and Miss Malaprop are a study in contrasts. They are two very different individuals who love and fight each other in fairly equal measure but, fortunately, they complement each other too. They’re like chorizo and haloumi, smoked salmon and capers, any other quirky combination you care to name. When trouble is afoot, however, they tend to follow that timeless pattern of behaviour I remember falling into with my own brother: stick together, deny everything, and when all else fails — blame the other person.
Outside, surveying the damage, it was clear there was no coming back for the cubby house. It was busted. Completely kaput. Bits of broken plastic were littering the lawn and a surprisingly large number of spiders crawling out from the newly exposed cracks in the frame. Just regular, garden variety spiders, you know. Nothing to get upset over. This is Australia, after all — we don’t get too wound up over arachnids unless they are the poisonous kind, and we learn to identify them from an early age. “They don’t have red spots, Mum,” said Marvel Girl cautiously, peering down at the rapidly disappearing spindly-legged creatures. “Nup,” I replied definitively, “No Redbacks here, but it’s always good to check.” She nodded solemnly in response.
Miss Malaprop, uncharacteristically blasé about the spiders, had other things on her tiny mind. “You pushed it over,” she said accusingly, pointing at the shattered panels, glaring hard at her sister. Once the ensuing shouting match had been dealt with, we set about dismantling the rest of the cubby house, the setting of so many imaginary adventures.
Ah, the old plastic cubby house. It has been an ice cream shop and café that catered to customers’ every passing whim, a pirate boat from which many a scurvy dog as been sent to walk the plank, a hidden base for jungle explorers when covered with fallen fronds from the palm tree in the corner of the yard. Climbing unassisted onto the faded yellow roof was a rite of passage for you and so many of your little mates, with the cry of surprise that “I can reach now!” inevitably being followed by a triumphant rooftop shout: “Look at ME!”
The back yard looks a whole lot bigger now, and perhaps even a little bereft now that those garish plastic panels, stairs and slippery slides have disappeared.
Farewell, old plastic cubby house. You served us well.