“You know what I wish, Mother?” Tina asked. “I wish I had a little house of my very own.”
“That’s a nice wish,” said Mother as she put on her oven mitts and set the casserole on the table. “Please tell Marlene and your dad it’s time for supper now, dear.”
Tina went down the hall. I’m going to make me a house of my own tomorrow, she decided.
The next day while helping her dad rake the dead leaves, Tina found the perfect place for a house. It was under the spruce trees that separated the yard from the neighbor’s.
Tina raked out all the dead grass from under the trees and all the spruce needles and bits of paper that had blown and caught there during the winter. She discovered that the branches came almost down to the ground and made a perfect house at the bottom of the tree.
Dad gave her an old rug to lay on the ground, and the space beneath the branches was even big enough for her table and chairs. Eating her lunch under the tree was great fun. But that evening the weatherman on television predicted rain, so Tina and her dad had to put all her things back into the garage.
In the morning it was too stormy to play outside in her house again. Tina decided to make a house under the dining room table out of blankets and chairs and the cushions from the den. She set out her little dishes under one chair. Her baby doll Amanda had a nursery under another chair. And there was even a bedroom for another doll.
But after a couple of days of having the blanket house in the dining room, the rest of the family began to complain.
“What’s the mess in there with all the blankets?” Tina’s big sister Marlene asked.
“It’s Tina’s house, dear,” replied her mother. “She’ll take it down before Sunday when Grandma comes to dinner.”
“Can’t you make her clean it up now? Shawn is coming over to do homework and it looks just awful.”
Then Dad asked, “Where are all the cushions from the den? I wanted to take a nap.”
It was always the same. Tina’s fun never lasted very long. She wanted a house she didn’t have to move because company was coming or because it was going to rain or just because she was in somebody’s way.
“Jim wonders if we would store his ice fishing shanty here for the summer,” Tina’s dad announced one day at lunch. Tina loved her dad’s youngest brother. He had no family of his own, and he often came to visit them. Uncle Jim was a big man with a light brown beard that tickled.
“I guess he misses not having a backyard since he moved into an apartment,” said Mother. “I’m sure we can find a place for his fish shanty.”
On Saturday Tina watched her uncle back his pickup truck into the yard. He slanted some planks from the back of the truck to the ground and Tina’s dad helped him slide the little wooden house down onto the grass in the corner of the yard.
Tina watched from her swing. It was a neat little house, smaller than the toolshed but tall enough in the center for a man to stand up. It was painted yellow and had brown shingles on the roof. There was a stovepipe with a cloth tied around it coming out of one wall.
Uncle Jim stopped to give Tina a hug and a tickle with his beard. “There you are, pumpkin,” he said, “a house for you to play in.”
“For me?” Tina asked.
“It’s all yours until next winter,” he promised.
Tina jumped out of the swing and ran to look inside the little house. It had one window in the back opposite the door, and there was a bench fastened to one wall. Across from the bench was a shelf. But the floor had two large round holes. Why would anyone build a house with holes in the floor? she wondered.
Tina ran into the big house and found Uncle Jim at the kitchen table. He grinned at his niece. “Well, what do you think?”
“It’s a wonderful little house, Uncle Jim! Can I really play in it?”
“Sure you can. Your dad’s going to nail some plywood over the holes in the floor. Wouldn’t want you to catch your foot in one.”
“What are the holes for?”
“I fish through them. The lake is frozen when I put the shanty out each winter. I cut holes in the ice with a long drill called an ice auger and put my lines down through the holes into the water. The shanty protects me from the weather. It gets so warm inside that I have to take my parka off—almost forget how cold it is outside.”
“You’ll be Tina’s friend for life,” said Mother. “She’s been wanting a playhouse.”
“Well, about Christmastime I’ll have to borrow it for two or three months, if that’s OK with you.”
“Oh, yes!” said Tina. “Thank you, Uncle Jim.” She felt a smile spreading over her face and she put both arms around Uncle Jim’s neck and hugged him hard.
“You’re welcome, pumpkin. I needed a place to store it, so we’re helping each other.”
Tina went to the garage to get her table and chairs. She stopped on the way to admire the little house again. It was just what she had dreamed about, and she would never have to put it away—even when it rained.