Friday, May 22, 2009

My first love

Besides Bo Duke, that is.

When I was 5, we went to eat lunch after church at someone's house. They had an older daughter, who was probably just a few years older than I, but I thought was way older. She had the most amazing thing I had ever seen. A doll house. I don't remember a whole lot about it, but I fell in love with it. I remember just sitting in front of it and being amazed at the detail. And my parents took note. For my sixth birthday, I was given my very own doll house. It was just a plywood shell of a house, no doors or windows, or even paint. Just a plain wooden box with 6 rooms. And I loved it.

I think the first thing we did was paint it. My dad and I painted it off white with a brown roof. Then we went to the Elf Shelf. The Elf Shelf was a toy store that had a room in the back full of doll house furniture and accessories. I bought a wooden bed, a baby bed, and a high chair. We also got a model kit to make a bathroom that my dad built. That was all the furniture I had, but somehow I played with that for hours. No dolls, even. My mom cross-stitched a rug for the nursery and we bought some wallpaper for it, too. It had pink and blue and yellow balloons on it. Then I got a baby from the Elf Shelf. Just a little naked baby no bigger than an inch. I named her Suzanne. Suzanne lived by herself for about six months.

We moved to Pensacola the summer that I was six. But, I loved going back to Huntsville to visit grandparents and the Elf Shelf. That Thanksgiving, I got a refrigerator and some food (bowls, a salad, ketchup, and Corn Flakes). And then for Christmas, I got the mother lode. I got a Fisher Price family. It had a dad that looked like my Uncle Clellon, a mom that looked just like my mom, a tiny little boy that I named Billy, and a sister. My sister Becky had a RAGGEDY dollhouse that was built from a kit and we both got Fisher Price furniture that Christmas. I swiped her fireplace, and I got a plastic brass bed and a little white dresser that I gave to the sister. I remember getting pieces of furniture here and there...a table and chairs, a hat stand. Mostly I made things or improvised. If it was tiny, it was going in my dollhouse.

We then moved to Charleston the summer that I was 8. Sadly, Sister was lost in the move. During that summer, I was introduced to the Brady Bunch. I turned my dollhouse into the Brady's house. I scrounged up enough small dolls to make the whole family. I think I played Brady Bunch every day that summer.

The next summer, we moved to another house. For the first time, my dollhouse was in my room. (Both my dollhouse and Becky's dollhouse had always been in our family rooms for some reason.) I think the new location and my getting older really got me into the decorating of it. I totally dove in to re-inventing everything. I spent every penny on dollhouse stuff, painted the rooms, and painted the outside yellow. We even bought windows and doors for the house and painted them blue. By now, the family had been adjusted. The dad, Billy, and Suzanne were still the same, but mom had been replaced by a Glamour Gal named Diane. I also added a teeny tiny baby that I bought at a cake decorating store and named her Paige. (I had made a friend at school named Suzanne that had a sister named Paige, so that seemed appropriate.) Until now, though, my doll house world had been my own private obsession.

The summer before the 5th grade, many things happened. We took a trip to Washington and I was blown away by the miniature exhibit at the Smithsonian. It opened up a whole new world of how far you could go with this hobby. I also discovered two things at the library that summer...a magazine devoted entirely to miniatures, and books written by Rumer Godden. I dove into these books about dolls in dollhouses coming to life after dark. I also wore the pages out reading those magazines and seeing what grown-ups had done with their dollhouses. I also met Jackie.

Jackie lived a couple of streets over from me. I am not sure how I ended up going to her house to play. We had some friends in common, but had never been in the same class at school. The first time I walked into her room and could not believe what I saw...she had a dollhouse,too! I had never known someone else, especially my age, that had a dollhouse. Hers was a larger scale, suited to Barbie size, but it was wonderful and I knew right away that we were kindred spirits. Then I walked into her kitchen. Her mother had the hugest, most amazing dollhouse I had ever seen outside of a museum. It was breathtaking.

Since Jackie's dollhouse was a larger scale, we both decided that Barbie was the way to go with miniatures. We created fabulous worlds for our Barbies. Since my dollhouse was smaller scale, I had to use my mom's end table. I still loved my dollhouse, but the ongoing construction ended. Jackie and I got older, and by the time we were in 7th grade, teen-angst had replaced us staying up on Friday nights making Sculpy pastries for our dolls. I moved back to Huntsville the summer before 8th grade. My dollhouse stayed packed up for a year.

We bought a house with a family room in the basement. My dad put my dollhouse there. I set it up, but did not touch it for years. After I graduated from high school, we moved to Memphis. I packed my dollhouse up and it still sits in my parents' attic.

All these years later, I still love miniatures. I am fascinated by anything that is a tiny copy of something that is real. I tried to pass this love on to my own daughter. For her second birthday, I searched ebay for months until I had the entire Little Tikes dollhouse and all the furniture. Is there anything cuter than a miniature Cozy Coupe? I think not. I would set up the furniture for her to play...and she had very little interest. She liked it fine, but she would have rather played with blocks. Then for the Christmas that she was 4, Santa brought her the Fisher Price Loving Family Dollhouse with all the furniture. So cute. I just loved it. And she did for a while, but it lost its charm. It sits in the playroom, so bright and pretty with all its perfectly matched furniture. If she has someone over that is interested in it, she will play it, but usually it just sits there.

A few weeks ago, I was in Hastings book store and I happened across a book called "The Doll People." I had to buy it. It is about a family of dolls that lives in a dollhouse that has been passed down through many generations. It reminded me so much of the Rumer Godden books of my childhood. I read it that day and spent lots of time thinking about how happy my dollhouse made me. I also remembered how much I dreamed as a girl of one day having an amazing dollhouse with all the bells and whistles, like the displays in the miniature stores.

I decided then and there that I was going to do that very thing. Build my dream dollhouse.


Lauren S said...

I am amazed at how you remember all those details! So have you built the dream dollhouse yet? I think you have access to a certain shop in Nashville that might be a good place to start. :)

Cuteek said...

What a beautifully nostalgic story..... Tell us more about the Dreamhouse!