As the Rolling Stone’s said, “Gimme shelter”. George Washington’s winter quarters at Valley Forge is well known. Lesser known is the winter quarters of my brother and me.
David and I trudged through deep snow drifts to get to our clubhouse. Our winter visits served mainly as a stop-gap before and after sledding or skating.
One of our best sledding hills began its steep descent behind our clubhouse. It had several huge jumps that sent us airborne and landed us with spine jarring thuds. (Maybe that’s why my back began bothering me in my teen years.) Our long trek back up was worth the thrill-ride down.When an ice crust thick enough to gently walk on formed on top of the snow, our sledding hills became a daredevil experience. Not only did the ice make our ride faster, it made it longer; causing us to roll off our sled before a barbwire fence waiting at the bottom sliced us like ripe tomatoes. Occasionally, we broke through the thin ice crust after particularly high jumps with rough landings, but escaped ice-slicing, too.
Dad plowed our driveway and–like most guys with a snowplow–part of the lawn as well. He pushed the snow into a tightly packed mountain. David and I used snow shovels to carve winding stairways and sunken rooms for two snow forts. We had brief snowball fights, but our hours of creative building provided the most enjoyment.That was all good, but what we really needed was an indoor clubhouse.
The first year of living in our basement house, the space under a stairway-leading-to-nowhere wasn’t walled in yet. With help from a blanket where sheetrock should be, it made a great winter home. We filled it with blankets, pillows, comic books, and flashlights. And by peeking between the stair treads we didn’t miss our television shows.
The second winter, Dad’s back went out, again. He suspended a spare door (flat with no door knob) across the arms of our sofa, and slightly cushioned it with his folded army blanket. It was normal to see Dad lying for days on his makeshift bed.
Dad needed company, so we constructed a fort by the sofa, careful not to block his view of the television.
We draped blankets over a framework of card tables, folding chairs, and television trays. Sofa cushions served as extra walls, while bed pillows and sleeping bags softened the brown linoleum floor.
Our domicile consisted of several connecting rooms spanning half the rectangular living room. Our lounge was under the first card table and had a removable wall for easy television viewing. Our comic book reading room had a flashlight strapped to a table leg. A spooky voodoo room sported doll heads hanging from the table edge (sacrifices had to made, by me and my dolls).
Despite our invitations, Mom wouldn’t crawl in to explore our hodgepodge. She opted to peek inside our teepee-style doorway or lift a blanket-wall to peer into our further rooms. We let baby Susan come in as long as she didn’t bother us.
During a raucous game of Go Fish held in the lounge, Mom poked her head in our doorway. Her eyes swept past David and me, and rested on her fourth kid. Dad’s back felt better so he crawled in with us. She stood back up and we laughed as her hmpf reached our ears.
Mom was extremely tolerant, so Cabinville tended to last about a week, at which time it began self-destructing.
Lesson learned: A temporarily messy living room is a small price to pay for mastering construction skills, comforting the incapacitated, and socking away more great memories.
Now it’s your turn: What did you use for winter quarters?
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