On Christmas Eve in 1978, my dad and grandfather took my sister and I for an impromptu walk around the neighborhood. “Won’t it be nice to look at the Christmas lights?’ my dad asked. Little did we know that as we were strolling along the sidewalk, all bundled in our coats, my grandmother and mom were rapidly moving a dollhouse into the living room, setting up the tiny furniture and preparing the very best surprise of our young lives.
It wasn’t just any dollhouse, either; it was one designed and built by my grandfather over the course of many months.
He was an extremely handy guy, as well as a perfectionist, so believe me, that two-story white Colonial was gorgeous. Amy and I were over the moon with joy on that Christmas Eve, more than thirty years ago. There were real little shingles, and a diminutive staircase. The rooms were wallpapered: a yellow print in the kitchen, a blue floral in the bathroom. There was a family of four — mom, dad, sister, brother — and a burgundy plush velvet sofa and little brass beds in the kids’ room.
We absolutely loved it.
And now my two nieces will love it all over again, for on Easter, when they were visiting, the dollhouse was packed up, put into their car, and taken to their home.
When I was over at my parents’ house on Easter Sunday, I went through the boxes of furniture, housewares, and dolls. I hadn’t looked at them in years. And oh, the memories.
Here is the dollhouse family: the original four, plus two babies acquired later.
They are, I must say, rather the worse for wear. The father is breaking apart at the waist, and Mom is losing her head.
The older children are missing one foot apiece, which makes them look like victims of some terrible industrial accident. Oh, and the foam of the girl baby’s legs is literally disintegrating, as if she has some virulent skin disease.
All in all, they look more like they belong in a World War I field hospital than a dollhouse. Consider it a sign of how well-loved they were. ( No: are.)
Because I have to tell you, I got such pleasure out of revisiting this family, and their furnishings, and their housewares. In a rush, the last three decades evaporated and I was a kid again. I was overjoyed to find all the diminutive toys we had acquired over the years (that clown was always a personal favorite).
And the family had a variety of pets, too, as well as a stylish umbrella holder (really a large bead, with little cocktail umbrellas inside).
I have to admit, it’s kind of hard to see it leave my parents’ house. I made my sister swear that she would not get rid of anything in the dollhouse, ever. Because it’s a time capsule, really: a collection of memories of a long-ago time, when my grandparents were both alive and my sister and I were kids and a summer afternoon was for nothing more urgent than making Edward and Margaret slide down the tiny banister while Mom washed dishes at the sink and Dad sat stiffly on the sofa, reading a newspaper. They were precious, those dollhouse days — really, really precious.
But now it’s my nieces’ turn to make some memories. And I think my grandpa would be happy to see a second generation resurrecting the dollhouse, pulling it out of its dusty corner and bringing it to life again, just as it used to be.