When I was little, my grandmother sent me one of the coolest presents I ever received. A massive cardboard dollhouse! My favorite part was that you could drag half of it open, get inside the big open space, and close it behind you so that you were sitting surrounded by multiple floors full of painted cardboard rooms. The set came with plastic furniture too, but the chairs were too small for Barbie and too big for her sister Polly Pocket (the dysfunctional family who had moved into the house immediately). This simply would not do, and all furniture was promptly thrown out the windows and burned in an imaginary bonfire on the cardboard house’s front lawn. As is right.
My father assembled the cardboard house and put it in the basement for me since there was a lot of open space down there. You know I loved playing in that house if I was willing to go in the scary basement. I tried to find old pictures to give you a better visual of the scale of my cardboard house, but the only ones I could find are of the no-roof-yet stage of construction.
I spent hours in my cardboard house. Besides playing in it, I determined its true potential: hiding things. None of my siblings really played with my “girly” toys, so there was no chance of someone opening it. A literal house full of literal secrets!
One of the times this came in handy was the day I decided to run away. I hid a very small cooler inside a spare room on the second floor and slowly hid food inside to save up supplies. I don’t remember everything I saved, but I do vividly remember prioritizing a block of cheddar cheese I stole from the second fridge my mother kept in the basement for extra food she’d bought with coupons. Times haven’t changed much – if I was in a hurry to escape somewhere now, I would probably make room for cheese too.
I remember carefully writing a note I intended to leave behind, with instructions on which sibling should be entrusted with which portion of my abandoned belongings and why. This took time, because I didn’t want to rush into those kinds of serious decisions. Eventually, I cancelled my plan altogether because I could not come up with a strategy for opening one of the outside doors in the middle of the night without alerting someone. I staggered the replacement of my cooler food back where it belonged, item by item so nobody would notice. The stakes were high, and I was relieved when I pulled it off. No one was the wiser.
I don’t remember what happened to the cardboard house. I must have stopped playing with it, and my parents gave it away.
Note: W just asked me how long the food was in the cooler for. I’m pretty sure it was a week or two. Listen, it was fine. I thought ahead, and there was an ice pack in there. It was fine!