“I like your bed.” I compliment. “Thank you. I brought all my coziest blankets.” Says my little girl. “So, where is your kitchen?” I ask, playing their game. “We’ll have to leave for that.” He says, as if everything else will be provided for inside this canopied haven. And maybe he’s right. After all, in there is his warmest blanket, her special pillow, and they have each other.
Today’s fort is bigger than the last one they built. It encompasses most of the living room. It uses dining room chairs, a piano bench, an ottoman. I showed them how to prop up the middle with a stick so that it vaguely resembles a tepee, a fact my youngest was quick to point out. They say I may even be able to crawl into it. They are learning the art of fort building. I am guiding them a little.
I remember my sister and I loved building forts, what child doesn’t. We had the perfect couch pillows for such an endeavor. We used them like blocks, setting them up just so, creating rooms and spaces of our own. I am not half bad at fort building. But I want my kids to learn the pleasure of the build, so I only make suggestions, guide. I do not take over. This is obvious when you see the lopsided and sagging blankets, the falling pillow doors, the leaning stick that may crash at any moment. It is theirs, all theirs.
When dad walks in the door they scream, “come see our fort, we built it today, can we sleep in it tonight, you said we could.” Dutifully, he drops his bags and crawls towards their creation, sticking his head deep into the folds of one of the windows or maybe it is a door. The kids laugh to see him so obviously out of place. “You don’t fit at all dad.” And they laugh some more.
When they crawl inside, for the twenty-third time today, all I hear are giggles, a sharp cry of scoot over, a whisper to play some game or other. The blankets muffle most of the actual words and really, when they’re in there I tune out a lot too, because it’s their time, their space, their world. I can be sitting right above them and yet they are miles away. I think all three of us are happy with that arrangement. At least until lunch time, when they must “leave for that.”