Clair McFarland: If Home Is A Kingdom, The Blanket Fort's The Rebel Base

Clair McFarland writes: "Whatever legislative session or trial those boys were having in the blanket fort was none of my business. I would just have to trust that justice would prevail. But justice did not prevail, because Middleborn was the commander."

Clair McFarland

December 30, 20234 min read

Clair and the cat
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

If a family is a tiny kingdom, the blanket fort is the rebel base.  

The boys chattered quietly for three hours Friday while I baked Christmas pies. Too quietly.  

I assumed the candy canes had sickened them or they were brooding over some frostbite.  

But no. They were gathering all The Husband’s shop clamps and every blanket in the house to build a three-room circus tent in the twins’ room.  

I dusted my hands on my apron, tiptoed toward the encampment, crouched, and ducked into the fort entrance.  

The boys fell silent. Three sets of eyes froze in the alien light behind me.  

(There were only three boys in the fort because Firstborn was outside being a cool teenager or something.)  

Whatever legislative session or trial those boys were having in the fort was none of my business. I would just have to trust that justice would prevail.  

But justice did not prevail.  

Because Middleborn was the chief architect, he was also the commander. He explained this later when they decided to let me in on a work visa.  

“Now, Mom,” began Middleborn. “This is my room. It’s the biggest. Because I’m the biggest.” 

The thrill of Christmas had deluded Middleborn. He’s actually my smallest child because he won’t eat real food.  

“This is my bed. This toy box has every book I own,” Middleborn said.  

Middleborn’s bed was a twin-size built of old couch cushions, wedged against a lampstand and a library. 

“Why would you need every book you own – “  

“Because!” he shouted.  

The word “because” is the ultimate answer. It imposes a timeless prophecy onto every hairbrained maneuver.  

Meanwhile, I squatted inside the dark fort, which smelled of corn chips. Middleborn gestured to the narrow strip between toy box and wall that would be Firstborn’s bed. Then he led me, crawling, into the twins’ “rooms.”  

I found the little, feisty twin in the fetal position with my copy of “Beowulf” wedged between his quilt-covered dresser and his blanket-draped bed.  

“This isn’t a room. It’s a reading nook,” I said.  

“Nah, he’s gonna sleep in here,” said Middleborn.  

Little-Feisty strained against the blanket ceiling to look me in the eye. Through a crack between quilts, the lamplight splashed onto the fine, silvery down of his cheek.  

“It’s OK, Mom, I’ll just sleep sitting up,” said Little-Feisty.  

I squinted at him.  

Middleborn then showed me the big, sweet twin’s room.  

Big-Sweet lay prone, board-stiff, holding a book so close to his eyes that it squished his nose. A red quilt sagged above him, casting a volcanic glow.  

“What the –” I began.  

Big-Sweet twisted his body into a crescent so he could look at me. He grimaced like an appendectomy patient.  

“How are you going to read in here?” I asked.  

“It’s OK, Mom, I’ll just read lying down,” said Big-Sweet.  

I slapped my forehead. Then I, um, squeezed out of the fort by crawling backward in the dark.  

Despite the harsh ranking system inside the fort, the commander and his minions made it an adventure.  

The camp filled the twins’ bedroom, leaving us non-citizens — “everyone over 30” — to crowd into the doorway each evening when it was time to say goodnight. 

The quilts muffled their gossip, their court trials, their outlandish arguments. They stayed up late and plotted. They smuggled heroes into the fort inside their books.

Clair McFarland can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter