Note to MMH — you can demolish my shed, but you can’t demolish a single memory from my childhood.
On my morning run today, I took a side trip down the lane of my childhood home. Since it was dark, it took me a few seconds to realize that something was different. Straw spread over a large square space…OH NO! They’d demolished “The Shed”, the home of so many childhood experiences. My first thought was “Why?” After that, so many memories came rushing back that I had to stop for a minute to catch my breath and stop the tears.
After all, in most person’s eyes, it was just a building, a shack that perhaps was in the way. But for me, my brothers, my parents, many of the kids who grew up in the neighborhood, and even my children and nieces and nephews, the shed was the place to hang out, to play, to learn the fine art of woodcrafting. We all spent hours out there watching Dad work in his shop — the one place he could unwind from teaching. He taught us all to use the equipment, from making our first little boats to more complicated projects.
It was home to all of our camping gear — the tents, the “camp kitchen” — and all those other things for which our house had no room. For awhile it held a ping pong table that kept us entertained on rainy days, warmed by a wood stove. There was a corner devoted to playing “house”, a favorite pasttime of my girlfriends and me — an old wooden crib with a built-in cupboard, held dolls, clothes, pots and pans, and whatever else we needed for pretend play.
Along the way, my dad built shelves along the back wall, on which we stowed treasures we couldn’t part with, seasonal items, and underneath the bottom shelf were several old trunks. A wooden one was filled to the brim with Halloween costumes. As kids, we didn’t buy new costumes each year. Instead, we trooped to the shed to decide who would wear the wolf costume or be a ghost, or whatever we could create out of old fabric, funny masks and hats. There was a tiny compartment that held little masks that might otherwise get lost in the junk.
I can still conjure up the smell of the shed — a combination of sawdust and the mustiness one associates with an old building holding even older items. It was a nostalgic smell — one that held a sense of excitement every time we walked in the door — it was locked in later years but early on, anyone could have walked in.
In the summer of 1971 or1972, my dad and my brother, John, created a tiny bedroom in one corner. John and his wife, Rachel, spent the summer after their college graduation and wedding, living in the shed. For the first time in my life, I had a real sister, someone who was there every day to listen to my troubles, give me advice, and to watch tv game shows with. I knew better than to bother them when they were in their “home”, but with the shed in the backyard — I was bound to see them sooner or later. For years after they’d moved on, I would hide in that room, reading or dreaming of my own future.
Oddly — and somewhat ironically — those dreams never included the one that came true. Little did I know that down the street another family had its own “shed” — known to them as the “shop”. A little boy who grew up creating his own memories of that shop is now my husband. So today when I told him that the shed had been demolished, I know that he knew exactly how I felt.
From now on, when I pass that spot where the shed stood, a little white square building will appear ghostlike as a lifetime of memories flood my mind.