In my last narrative post I talked about adults wanting stuff for Christmas and having to get it later on. This sort of happened to me, and it became one of those intense symbolic-object issues that disturbs me a little.
When I was small, I had a dollhouse. It was made of painted metal and filled with bland plastic furniture, a different color for each room. Inside and out, the details were all filled in–It was a white brick Colonial, and I think it had painted carpeting and pictures on the walls. It had a family of ivory plastic people on stands like toy soldiers. They couldn’t sit on their plastic chairs and they rolled off their plastic beds. It was the most frustrating, creativity-stifling toy imaginable, and deep down inside I hated it without knowing that I hated it.
(You can Google 60s metal dollhouse images here.) Pretty kitschy, eh? Appealing with their bright colors? Trust me, for my literal little Poindexter brain it just didn’t work. People don’t stand around their dinner table, damn it! The usual happened–over the years, pieces got lost, and I think I dented the roof by using it to stand on. Trying to explain that I wanted the sort of dollhouse I read about (Little Plum! Aieee!!) got me nowhere, because I already had one! Ungrateful little churl.
I knew my dad would never in a billion millennia build me a scale model of a real Japanese house (curse you, Rumer Godden), so I sort of buried the desire. It’s a bright shiny world, after all. Then when I was in my early 20s, I went to the Smithsonian and I saw THE Dolls’ House in the National Museum of American History. My heart broke into a trillion pieces.
I vowed that someday I would have a Real Dollhouse. As wishes go, it’s not all that major. There are crazy miniature people coming out of America’s ears. Every decent hobby shop carries some stuff.
Except the miniature replicas of Planned Parenthood brochures and the US Constitution. Not all hobby shops have those. So I told my soul to lay in wait. Even simple Real Dollhouses ain’t chump change.
Then one day my in-laws gave me a substantial cash present. I think to celebrate my college graduation/getting into Harvard grad school. Bless them, they probably expected me to get books or some nice Oxford-stripe shirts or similar appropriate prezzie. But no–I hauled my poor husband off to the humungous hobby store somewhere in Worcester or something–and came home with my very own two-story Victorian, with an extension, no less. It was a pre-built display model and on sale.
This is when I discovered that Real Dollhouses take Real Work. I wanted a Painted Lady, and I chose to cover the meek, drab pink it came in with a pink that had personality, staying power, and its own zipcode. This took two whole little bottles of craft paint, and a lot of time. My husband was used to my ah, er, projects, so he wasn’t too mean about the dollhouse–or surprised that I never quite finished painting the trim. (Peach and violet. Yowsah!)
Wooden dollhouses are fragile (especially pre-built display models of ANYTHING, duh), and I think the door was the first thing to break. (We had cats and two toddlers at the time.) Then a section of the porch. The flowers came out of their drilled holes in the windowboxes. And pretty soon, I had a big pink slum that, wherever we moved, took up too much space. Dollhouse furniture (the non-plastic kind) is pricey–and also fragile. So what few pieces I got from time to time also sort of fell apart.
But I was falling apart too, so I didn’t have the bandwidth to notice.