This week I’ve been privileged to view some very special real estate.
It is not every day a child will open their cubbyhouse for inspection, but my new young friend is justifiably proud of hers.
The eponymous Rosie’s Place is a bijou master-work of love, hand-crafted by her dad Vic and colourfully hand-painted by the seven-year-old occupant herself.
It was his first major construct.
“Like most men I own a hammer and a saw for odd jobs, but I had never ever actually built anything,” Vic explains.
“It was pretty much designed to her plans. She was definitely the project manager. I imagined something on a much smaller scale. I was like can’t it just have one storey, be like this big,” he says with his hand at waist height.
No, insisted Rosie, it had to be two storeys. There had to be stairs on the inside, instead of the outside. “It had to be tall enough for a grown-up on the top level because she wanted to share it with me from time to time. There had to be a balcony, plus a cat flap for Rosie’s feline friend Cranberry – full name Cranberry Marmalade – to come and go as she pleased.
“We had never owned a place before and I promised her when we get our own place I will build you a cubby. And she kept me to my promise.
“I thought it might take a week or two weeks and I am out here in 40 degrees with sweat coming out of my eyeballs … bang, bang bang.
“It took me all summer.
“It was a big labour of love. We had a rough year last year. Her mum and I split up, her grandpa died. I just wanted to do something nice.”
At a time of considerable heartache and upheaval the cubby project became a form of therapy for father and daughter as she worked out the new family dynamics between her estranged parents.
Taking me on a tour Rosie’s eyes shine with pride. “I have a kitchen clock that plays music and there is even a chair on the balcony. Last week I spent four hours in here just reading.”
It is just as important for children as it is for adults to have spaces they can call their own where personal belongings and special treasures can be stored.
From very young ages kids will seek out small child-sized places where they can hide away and as they grow older they like forts of imagination they can share with other kids.
The very word cubby makes me feel snug with memories.
Sadly in the increasingly space-constrained indoor world of kids governed by helicopter parents and endless by-laws the improvised cubby in the bush or shack in a tree is not an option. But must that mean even a child’s own backyard becomes foreign land?
Not so long ago I asked a Year 10 student on work experience in the newsroom if he had a Hills Hoist in the backyard of the home as we needed one for a photo shoot and was horrified to discover he genuinely did not know … had no idea though he had lived in the same house for most of his life.
“I don’t know, I never go out there,” the would-be journalist replied.
Sometimes, don’t you just want to pull a sheet over and curl up into a small hole?