I gave away my white and green doll's house today. I loaded it into the car and trucked it to my mother's, the intent being to give it to her neighbor's seven-year-old daughter. Due to a few other errands, it ended up sitting in my backseat for a few hours, baking in the sun. Getting in the car to make the final leg of the trip, I inhaled one more time, taking in the scent of warm wood. My memories stirred then, ones I gave little thought to recently.
When I was twelve, I took $22 of my hard-earned newspaper delivery money and plunked it down on a four-room assembly-required pressed-wood dollhouse. Dad and I put it together at the dining room table. Over the next year, I poured my heart into it, painting and decorating it. Then re-painting and re-decorating. I learned how to wallpaper, how to wield an X-Acto knife without losing any fingers, and how to "kit-bash." Most of the furnishings were re-upholstered, re-painted, re-something. I never met a kit I couldn't redesign. I also learned how to use Sculpy and Fimo, and soon my dollhouse was teeming with people and toys. Eventually I started selling my clay toys at a local miniature shop.
When I exhibited my dollhouse at the shop's annual show and sale, the raffle prize was a seven-room one-of-a-kind white and green dollhouse. My little brother and his friend, who were in sixth grade and looking to kill time, stuffed the raffle box. We took the house home that night.
Between the night I took the house home and the day I married, I practiced the art of Martha Stewart in miniature. I took a break from the clay and moved to needlepoint and tiny flower arrangements. The house still needed something, so I learned how to measure and cut and stain. Soon enough, every room had baseboards and moulding. It was lovely by the time I was finished with it.
Surprisingly, packing it away, as I moved into married life wasn't that hard. I hadn't put the same love into it as I had with the one my father and I built together. That, with it's sandpaper shingles and die-cut gingerbread, was infinitely the favorite. The smaller one was the one I took with me to my new house. The large one was "too big." I'd learned on that one, true; but how many of us treasure the workbooks we used in grade school?
The Mother's Day after Dad was diagnosed with cancer, I convinced the big guy to buy The McKinley dollhouse kit for me as a gift. I wanted to build something again, not just win by default. And I wanted to build it with my father. I wanted to spend the time with him like I had fifteen years earlier.
The kit is half-assembled and in my basement. Dad simply didn't have it in him to build, so I started the shell myself. The directions were -- are -- easy enough. But I just don't want to do it anymore. I don't want it anymore.
I want another dollhouse though; I miss the challenge of working in such small spaces with delicate materials. However, building, to me, will always be a father-daughter event -- and perhaps someday mother and son. Tomorrow, Gavie and I are going to put all of my birthday money on the (pre-built) house I've chosen. He and I are going to work on it together, though I'm limiting his input and keeping the hammers out of his hands.
So when I pulled that old cumbersome dollhouse out of the backseat today and gave it away, it was without much feeling at all, unless you count my eagerness to make room for the new and the chance to spend time with my son.