Almost three years ago, my parents moved from the home where they had lived since I was twelve. My husband, sons, and I traveled two hours to help them clean out the basement at the old house. Mom told me she'd saved back a couple of boxes of my old stuff if I wanted to sort through it. She said I might find a few other old toys or keepsakes in the downstairs back bedroom. Most of my things, though, had been ruined when the basement flooded years before. I made my way past half-packed boxes into the back bedroom. My dollhouse was still standing. The little pieces of furniture that had decorated the rooms were gone, and so was the family of dolls; but the house itself was still intact.
It was my favorite Christmas present. Dad and Papaw stayed up most of the night before my 8th Christmas, quietly assembling the pieces of the house. Mom set the furniture in the rooms and arranged the tiny plates, each no bigger than a fingernail, on the little wooden table. I imagined that the family, a mom, a dad, son, and daughter were surprised to see me peering in at them on Christmas morning.
I loved that dollhouse and spent hours for the next several years inventing stories for the family in the house. I moved the furniture from room to room, accommodating whatever drama or comedy I had cooked up in my imagination. I added chapters to their lives and introduced conflicts that were resolved, sometimes with tears. I can remember actually swallowing back sobs as the little doll people acted out the heart-wrenching stories I'd created.
Despite the hours spent playing with the dollhouse, I never actually decorated it. It never occurred to me to paper the walls with wallpaper samples or paint the outside of the house or add tiny shingles to the roof. I was interested in the stories that unfolded within the tiny plywood walls. I was never very good at decorating. Stories added color and texture to my world.
On my parents' moving day a few years ago, my husband and sons helped me pack the back of our car with a couple of boxes filled with high school yearbooks, some sketches I'd made, and various journals I'd written in over the years; my dad helped me pack up the dollhouse.
After relocating the little wooden house to my home, I thought about painting it or adding carpet squares. I visited some dollhouse sites online and even looked in the dollhouse section at the local craft store. Maybe one day, I thought; but it was enough, for now, that I had the house itself...the setting for so many stories.