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A kids' backyard playhouse and their arsenal of weapons plays on a granddad's memories

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Richard O'Mara

(Read caption) The writer's grandson No, 2, Stefan, smiles for a picture taken 13 years ago when he was five-years-old and still loving the backyard playhouse.

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The house outside may be facing the end of its days. It presents a skeletal image now of what it once was. Only one wall remains, the one in the back; the roof is gone, probably blown off during a storm. This enabled the pines to deposit about an inch of their needles onto the floor, a mere four and a half feet square. Now, when the sun comes through the trees after a rain they shimmer like new copper, or a hoard of fool’s gold.

It was to be Nicholas’s retreat from the world of adults. His father, Pat, and I, built the thing on four posts, to hoist it about three feet off the ground, necessary in this low terrain so close to the sea.  We attached a three-step ladder to get into it. When we finished we told Nick to share it with his younger brother, Stefan, my second grandchild, and with his cousins, my three other grandchildren, when they come down here to enjoy the beach with us. Nicholas, when he got a little further on in his life, didn’t bother with it much. “It’s for kids,” said No. 1 Grandson, as he pushed off on his skate-board down the road toward the beach, lugging his surfboard.

Nick doesn’t know that I identify him in my mind by a number. I got the idea from Charlie Chan, the fictional character in old movies, a Chinese American detective with a frozen, unhappy smile, yet operating effectively in an American milieu. He was like Confucius, wise and out of his time. Charlie called his first born “No. 1 Son,” which suggests to me that he expected others would follow.

After Nick, came Stefan, No. 2 in our family; Lily followed as No. 3; then her brother Finnegan, No. 4, and finally No. 5, Lukas: what a talker!  I don’t tell any of these children about their numbers. I do it because it just helps me keep their names adhered to their faces.

They all played in and out of the house over the years, rough and loud sometime. Stefan, for instance, once took a hammer and a bag of nails and pounded them all into this playhouse; maybe he thought his father and grandfather had built a rickety unstable retreat. We didn’t.

One of Stefan’s siblings, bright Finnegan, suggested that all those nails might draw lightening our way. Stefan gave thought to that, and the next time I saw him with the hammer in his hand he was sitting on the ground breaking up a concrete block.  Why? Maybe he felt a need to create something: rubble, perhaps.

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