When my daughter, Laura, was five years old and step-daughter, Tracy, was seven, my then husband, Ted, made a doll house out of wood for each of them. The girls were allowed to choose what the interior design would be for their house.
All three of them went to the basement workshop to look at paint. Each girl decided what color her house would be plus colors for the window shutters, walkway, roof and chimney. While Ted worked on painting their houses, we went shopping for decorating the inside of the houses.
First, we went to a wallpaper store to look through their scraps, and the girls examined every piece.
“Oh, Tracy, look,” exclaimed Laura, “Here’s a piece with little pink flowers. It’s the same color as your favorite jumper!”
“Oh, that will be perfect for the master bedroom. Thanks, Laura. Look, here. This one has about a million baseballs and bats. You should pick this.” Of course, Laura already a softball fan, chose it immediately.
And that’s how it went for every piece as they chose for each room. The proprietor was so impressed with their project that he gave them what they wanted—no charge. Granted, these were just small pieces, about a square foot each, but still…
Next, we went to a carpet store and had the same experience as the girls exclaimed over each piece. When Tracy was looking at a pink carpet for the master bedroom, Laura said, “No that’s not the same pink. It’ll clash with the flowers. Let’s look for a better match or choose a different color.” Little home decorators in the making.
Creating a Home
When we arrived home, the girls showed Ted their purchases and told him which room each carpet and wallpaper would be. Ted did all the cutting and gluing. Perfectionist that he was, everything fit just right. He even trimmed the pile carpet so the dolls wouldn’t sink and disappear.
We bought each of them some furniture and over time, for birthdays and holidays, new pieces were purchased. Laura didn’t play by herself with the dollhouse much. She was such a tomboy. But when Tracy visited every other weekend, they loved playing dollhouse together. It’s interesting that as adults, Tracy had a “devil-may-care” attitude about home decorating. Laura turned out to be the one who took pride in her home, making it just right for herself and her husband.
Ted and I split up when Laura was ten, and Tracy was 12. I don’t know if Tracy left the dollhouse at Ted’s or took it to her mom’s. But when I left, I took all of our belongings and moved with my children, Geoffrey and Laura, to an apartment. Laura kept the dollhouse in her room and occasionally played with it for awhile but eventually lost interest, either because she outgrew it or it was less fun without Tracy—or both. A few years later, Geoffrey moved to California to live with his father, and I bought a two-bedroom home in a quad. We got rid of stuff we no longer wanted, but Laura kept the dollhouse. She never played with it, but I think she just liked to have it as a remembrance of a time in her life that was very happy.
Relegated to the Basement
We lived in our little quad until 1993 when I married Stuart, my third (and final) husband. Laura was a junior at the University of Delaware and living on campus. I took all my personal things plus the dollhouse and Laura’s stuffed animals, moved into Stuart’s much larger house and rented mine out. Laura’s things were relegated to the basement. When she graduated the following year, she moved into a house with four friends. The dollhouse stayed in our basement as she had no room for it.
A New Home!
When my friend Diane’s daughter, Ruth, was about five years old, I thought maybe she would like to have the dollhouse. It was made with such love and care and enjoyed with such happiness. I really wanted another little girl to love it. I called Laura.
“Hi, Honey. I was wondering if you would mind if I gave your dollhouse to Diane’s daughter. She’s just the age you were when we got it.”
“Sure! It’s a really nice dollhouse. Someone should get some pleasure out of it.”
It so pleased me that she felt that way. I was unsure because she took it every time we moved. Maybe she was finally ready to give it away. Or maybe she was just waiting for the right little girl to own it.
On the Move Again
About five or six years later, Diane was cleaning out stuff the kids didn’t play with anymore. She called and asked me if I wanted the dollhouse back.
“I don’t think so, Di. Laura doesn’t want it anymore, and I don’t feel like having any stuff in my house that’s not being used. How about if you offer it to one of your friends’ daughters? It’s such a cute house.”
She called me a few days later and said, “I asked around, but no one is interested. I really think you should take it back. There might be a granddaughter in your future who would like it.”
“I doubt that. Danielle, my youngest granddaughter, is two years older than Ruth!”
“Well, I just can’t throw it away. It’s so special. You might regret not keeping it in the family.”
“Oh, all right.” I took it back only because it meant so much to Diane. But I never did ask around—just returned it to its previous spot in the basement. It felt like it was home.
Now Ted’s second grandson, Douglas, is married. I would love to give it to him if he and Karen have a daughter. If not, he has two brothers. Perhaps they’ll marry and have a child. I hope I will live to see it. Wouldn’t it be lovely if I could give it to one of Ted’s granddaughters?
After I asked Laura to read this story to see if she had anything to add, she said, “I do hope Doug and Karen have a child and want this very special gift. But if none of Natalie’s sons wants it, give it back to me. I’m so grateful to Diane for insisting you keep the dollhouse. Now that I’m older, I see the value in this wonderful gift. If you don’t find a home for it, I’ll take it back. It’s just too special.”
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