The little playhouse that lives forever in my heart

The little playhouse that lives forever in my heart

I remember looking out the window of our bathroom, the one that faced the backyard, and pressing my nose hard up against it. I saw my grandpa Stutzman back there assembling wood and tools, laying them out carefully to begin a project for us that I had long awaited. I ran outside and perched myself in the tree swing, close enough that I wouldn’t annoy him while he worked. I needed to be as close to the activities as possible because to miss one minute would be a tragedy.

I don’t remember why Grandpa was building this special project for us at our house, maybe just to do something for his grandkids. But I remember waking up daily as he was building, and I could hear the hammer pound each nail into place as my excitement grew. It didn’t take long until it was finished, and before me was a beautiful playhouse.

He had built it from a covered porch that was torn off our house during a remodeling project that year, so it was part of our original house — the third oldest in Berlin. It was nestled next to the big trees by the back alley and close to the swing set. There was a tiny window installed in the back so we could look out and have a view. When I entered it, I knew I had a tiny world I could call my own.

It wasn’t just for me, and I knew I had to share with my sisters, but I remember the times I spent in there all by myself. Maybe this is where my love of spending time alone comes from. There was a flat rock placed in front and one step that led inside. It seemed cavernous when I was 6 years old, in 1974 when it was completed. My younger sister was only 2, and my next older sister was 11, so it seemed like it was all mine.

Dad hung some old shelves inside, and at some point, the old, red telephone wall cabinet was hung as well. I loved this piece, with all the tiny cubbies and places for things to be stashed away. I’d bring stacks of notepads out to write things on, jotting down phone messages to myself. We placed a tiny table and chair inside, and I’d spend hours in there writing nonsense.

Some days I would walk up and down the alley collecting bottles, carefully rinsing them out and lining them on the shelf inside. They glistened clear and green and brown. I would sound out the names printed on them carefully: Rolling Rock, Lowenbrau, Schlitz. There would be pop bottles as well, and soon Mellow Yellow and Tab joined my beer bottle collection inside the playhouse.

At some point years later, I grew out of playing inside the tiny structure, as the years tend to do with things you once loved in childhood. When my children were born and they would stay at Mom’s, they formed a love relationship with the playhouse, now painted pink. One time they took hours cleaning it out and picked wild flowers and placed them all around the inside and out of it, begging us to come and peek at their paradise found. They were so proud of their endeavors.

Mom and Dad sold their place, and I lament not having drug the playhouse along to put in my backyard. I could have sat in it now and then, reminiscing, or made it into a potting shed to revive it to its former glory. It’s now gone from its spot in my old backyard in Berlin, banished the way some tiny structures are.

I was startled to learn of its demise, knowing it had a very good run of many years. But I am sad, as were my kids when they found out, and it got me thinking about it again. I can see the back of my grandpa’s head, lifting the pieces, fitting them together and making a roof of shingles so rain wouldn’t drip into my childhood haven. The adult side of me knows the memories remain, but that’s a hard thing to tell the little girl who still lives inside of me.

Melissa Herrera is a columnist, published author and drinker of too many coffees based in Holmes County. You can find her book, “TOÑO LIVES,” at or buy one from her in person (because all authors have boxes of their own novel). For inquiries or to purchase, email her at