Cardboard House

There’s a house in the middle of my living room made entirely out of cardboard. It’s got a front door and a roof and a little window for looking out onto the carpet yard.

Victor loves to build and his newest chosen material to build with is the pile of broken-down boxes in our foyer waiting to go out to the recycling bin. “Mommy, will you put this box ‘gether again for me?” he asked me hopefully when we got in from the commute home. I put the noodles on the stove to cook and grabbed a box, overlapping the ends on one side and tucking them in. “Put it here, make it bigger!” said Vic insistently and I followed my tiny architect’s instructions, then sat back on my heels while he fussed and tweaked the setup until he was happy with it.

Julien waited curiously to one side, watching his brother put their house together. “See Juli-baby, you put it HERE,” he explained emphatically, then held the flaps of two kissing boxes apart for Julien to crawl inside. He followed after and the sounds of feet and hands scraping the sides of the boxes mixed with giggles and Julien’s louder shrieks of laughter. A few moments later they came tumbling out again laughing like madmen and ran around the house a few times until they collapsed on the floor to catch their breath.

I remember doing this with my brothers when I was little and before that, turning cardboard boxes into a wardrobe with my mother and the kids next door. We’d draw outfits with my crayons on the back wall of the box and I’d go inside, pick one and come out to ‘model’ my new getup. As I got older our box adventures got more elaborate, the most sophisticated was a multi-box affair, tunnels leading one into the other out in the back yard. There was also a tree-house made out of the industrial-strength box for Dad’s new lawnmower. My best friend and I stole it out of the garage and braced across a couple of strong pine branches in the 20+ foot tree in the backyard. That one lasted until the next time it rained when the structural integrity of the cardboard was sadly compromised.

This is only the beginning for my kids. I’m sure there are going to be many more cardboard houses, castles and other structures in their lives. It’s a lot of fun to watch them discovering one of my favorite activities from my childhood. It’s even more fun to get in on the action and help out, take part in building and maybe, if they build one big enough some day, go inside and remember being small and how cozy and safe it felt to curl up in the back side of a cardboard box, as if the walls were impenetrable stone instead of hardened paper.