° empty

Sisters enjoy time playing in backyard playhouse

Sisters Kensley McJimsey, 4, and Bella Taunton, 7, love to play out in their playhouse in their front yard, which features a front porch, electricity and an interior ceiling fan. The girls received the house as a Christmas gift five years ago. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

VIDALIA — Five years ago, Santa Claus had a big surprise ready for the daughters of Keri Arnold.

Kaitlin Dooley, then 8 years old, and her younger sister Bella Taunton, then 2, came home from their grandparents’ houses on Christmas day to find a big yellow playhouse with a white railing surrounding a tiny front porch sitting in their front yard.

The girls knew immediately that the playhouse was for them and fell in love with their new palace right away, Keri said.

“They both got there at the same time, and when they got home they saw it and ran over to it,” Keri said.

That first night, Kaitlin and Bella spent the entire day and night in the playhouse with their mother.

“They wanted to know if they could put their beds in there and sleep,” she said. “That night we got a DVD player, and we sat in there for hours that afternoon. I cooked some supper and brought it out there and they ate supper in there, too.”

Five years and countless games of house later, the yellow structure — fully stocked with a kitchen, front porch, electricity and a ceiling fan — still stands in the front yard. Kaitlin has grown out of playing in the playhouse, but her step-sister and Summer Arnold, 9, Bella and their 4-year-old sister Kensley McJimsey still play in it often at their home on Dogwood Street where The Dart landed Friday.

Kensley said the girls play a variety of games in the house, but the most common has them play the roles of a family.

“When Summer is here, she is the mom, Bella is the girl, and I am the dog,” she said. “But when it’s just me and Bella, I am the girl and the dog.”

The playhouse was custom built to Keri’s specifications by a business in McComb that specializes in playhouse construction. Keri said there are pictures of the playhouse still on the company website.

“I thought it was neat,” Keri said. “When I was younger, I had a playhouse that was bigger. It was really more of a storage building with a porch, but I wanted to get them something they could grow into and play in it longer.”

The house has been through storms, floods and five years of constant use without too much wear and tear, Keri said. The front door knob is missing and there is a crack in the wall, but other than that it is still as it was that first day when the girls came home for Christmas.

Bella said she expects the house to continue to hold up for a long time.

“We will play in it until we get too big,” she said. “I’m going to give it to my kids some day. Santa Claus will move it to where I live at.”

The three young girls are not too strict about who can come in the playhouse, but an invitation is necessary for their two older sisters, Kaitlin and Morgan Arnold, 16, to join them in the house, and mom’s presence in the playhouse is usually more of a maid service, Keri said.

“I am allowed it in, but only to clean,” she said. “One time I gave them brooms to sweep it, and they came out and told me, ‘We’ve swept and swept and swept. Can you please come help?’”

The older members of the family respect the girls’ rules about entering the playhouse, but they still think the playhouse is pretty cool, they said.

“I thought it was pretty neat when I got here,” the girls’ stepfather, Chandler Arnold said.

Chandler said he hopes to add an air conditioning unit in the house this summer to keep the girls cool.