Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chicken Coop Clubhouse

It was like combining FAO Schwarz, Disney Land, and the North Pole into one. That's what it felt like when our grandparents, aunts, uncles and parents bought the remaining items from an abandoned schoolhouse and filled the old chicken coop with those desks, chalkboards, and books-lots of books. It'd been void of chickens for some time but there were still bits of feathers drifting about. Most of the windows were missing glass; the door crooked but none of that mattered to us even when it snowed inside.

We declared it to be the Girls Club but allowed our boy cousin to join and when that cousin who wore dresses came to visit she was allowed in too but I think we might have been mean to her at times. Not really mean but throwing our weight around because we were older-and we certainly didn't wear dresses as we played and pretended in that old coop.

Looking back we were babysitters of the younger cousins in the summertime and we didn't even realize it. To us,they were our students to the point that we even handed out report cards which included our personal remarks. We had all the tools-workbooks, chalk for the chalkboard, those desks like on Little House on the Prairie that had the round hole to the right at the top for holding bottles of ink. We taught math and read stories and sent home papers and notes if they'd misbehaved.
We even "published" a family newspaper and delivered it to each home on Sunday mornings. It contained family news, sports, and hand-drawn ads for those businesses akin to the family. I wish I could remember how we advertised my father's funeral home!

When we weren't teaching we were putting on cicuses which included getting huge empty boxes from our uncle who owned a shoe store and using them for our tumbling act. We held art shows; went out and got a small tree at Christmas and decorated it. One particular "show" where we'd invite all the adults to attend and worked so hard on organizing got washed out. It was an Easter extravaganza. We'd planned quite the event complete with pink and yellow marshmallow chicks and jelly beans. The night before it poured-really poured and all of our cardboard props and Easter candy were destroyed. The show was cancelled. But more shows were to follow.

To say we were blessed just doesn't describe what that old chicken coop with the remains of an abandoned schoolhouse gave us every single day as we experienced the pricelss gift of free play; opportunities to drop barriers in our minds and let our imaginations soar-every time we stepped through that crooked door.

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