Last weekend, we attempted to help my mother tidy up her shed. It turned into quite the ordeal.
It seemed as though nobody had been in the shed since my father died, and that was close to ten years ago. Only, that’s not entirely true: A closer inspection revealed that the shed had been visited quite frequently — by birds and bugs, and probably raccoons.
If it looks a little big for a shed: It is. My father was an architect who knew how to build, and what made him successful at work made him an absolute terror at home. Every room in our house had been pummeled and rebuilt five times over, sometimes for the sake of improvements, but more often because my father just wasn’t happy unless he was remodeling something.
Eventually, our house hit a point where even he had to admit that any additional wall-smashing would’ve been excessive. So he took the show on the road. When it came time to replace our shed — one of those modest metal things that you’ve all seen a zillion times — he decided to just build one himself.
Well, sort of. What he built was less a shed and more a studio apartment. I mean, not really, because it didn’t have a bathroom or a sink. But this “shed” was certainly large enough to double as a bedroom. It even had electricity. In its day, it looked nice and was another in his long string of impressive constructional achievements, but I can say with all certainty that we didn’t NEED a shed like this.
And this recent visit was a reminder of how nicely that worked out for me.
I noticed the remnants of an old Nintendo Power cover, tacked to a wall. The memories came flooding back. In the summer of ‘91 — or was it 1990? — I commandeered that shed as my personal clubhouse.
See, since the shed was far bigger than its contents required, it was pretty much just an empty spare room — one with lights and outlets and its own locking door. Having grown up on a steady diet of Honeycomb Hideout commercials, I never missed an opportunity to turn available space into clubhouse.
That torn Nintendo Power cover was just one of several still-lasting hints of the shed’s prior form. From memory, at its peak, the “clubhouse” looked something like this:
(Yes, it really did have a television, and I’ll prove that in a few minutes.)
To start, I dragged in a few of my posters. Since I didn’t want to sacrifice too much of my bedroom’s ambiance, I filled in the blanks with pages torn from magazines and comic books. Since there were outlets, old Christmas lights suddenly found a summer use.
But the pièce de résistance was an old television. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that I had access to one. Most families upgraded their sets, but few ever threw the old ones away. They just sat in hall closets, like electric cats waiting to be adopted.
The last touch was my Nintendo Entertainment System. Finally, the clubhouse was ready for patronage!
For much of the summer, I desperately tried to convince my two best friends — well, only two friends — that this stupid shed was their favorite hangout. This was as much a matter of self-preservation as anything else. So long as we were in the shed, nobody could suggest football or baseball. We were limited to the things that I was good at, like playing Blaster Master and eating Doritos.
They were never too interested in the clubhouse, but I did manage to make it our traditional hangout spot on Friday nights. Oh, what fun! We’d watch ABC’s TGIF lineup and pretend to hate Full House. Then we’d go in my ratty old pool — adjacent to the shed — and kill each other with water gun blasts to the eyes. I wore a shirt.
Eventually, my friends grew tired of the shed, or more likely tired of my desperate attempts to keep them there. By August, I was the sole member of the club. I took my friends’ desire to hang elsewhere as a bitter betrayal, because that was easier than admitting that stickball scared the piss out of me.
In September, school came, and I forgot all about it. Over the next several months, the shed did what sheds do: Collect lots of large garbage. The posters fell and the decorations rotted. Spiders moved in, and they called their friends.
(See? The television is STILL THERE.)
Unfortunately, the shed’s current condition was too much for us to handle alone. We filled a few trash bags, but that was it. To really empty it out, we’d need to rent a dumpster and acquire hazmat suits. We made casual plans to do just that, even if there’s a much bigger likelihood that the shed door won’t be opened again for another ten years.
Still, those small reminders of my glorious clubhouse meant the world to me:
I mentioned that the clubhouse was made as much for my friends as for me. To this day, evidence still remains. I certainly didn’t know who any of those football players were, and I was hardly the type of kid who’d tape up pictures of “bikini ladies.” All that shit was there for them.
And then I went and ruined it by tacking up an Earth Day poster.
Weird that a clubhouse built to encourage social activity reminds me so much more of solitude — specifically, the kind of miserably happy solitude that encapsulated my whole adolescence. I could not fit in. I guess I should’ve realized that kids who try to convince other kids to sit in a shed all day might have a problem doing so.
Oh well. It was still fun to have new walls to hang pictures of Batman on.
Wow, my old Super Soaker 100! I could sell that on eBay for 50 bucks!