It has tacky flower-power wallpaper and warping metal floors and a plastic balcony door, but for all of its flaws, a memory resides here, in this dollhouse that captured my imagination a few years before I discovered that Barbie had a pink Dream House, and years, still, before my dad and I started building a beautiful, wooden Victorian that I asked him to paint a plain blue simply because it reminded me of home…
(prior home to the Sylvanian family)
Yesterday, Mom told me that she and Dad were beginning to clear out the crawlspace, readying our childhood toys for sale if we didn’t want them. If it was a take it or sell it philosophy, then this memory wasn’t for sale.
No, not just yet…
I can’t tell you why it seemed to matter so much. After all, the metal is rusting, the paper is curling, and the chimney and half of the furniture is missing…Not to mention the original inhabitants had probably been sold off at a garage sale long ago, and when Barbie did get her Dream House, this one was relegated to a corner of the basement where, I had discovered, my brothers occasionally used it as a G.I. Joe fortress.
But maybe that’s the thing about memory…
Maybe that’s the thing about growing up.
Maybe the older you get, the more you want to have something to hold onto.
It’s funny how now, over twenty years later, I can still remember where everything goes, how easy is to reassemble everything back in its place, as if it was never stored away, as if it was only this morning that I was sitting on that blue oval rug in the basement, blocking out my small world so that it became even smaller: just me and a house and my imagination.
To everything a place.
And everything in its space.
I still remember that the china closet fits perfectly beneath the stairs.
And I recall trying to rearrange this room half a dozen different ways before always reverting it back to the original floor plan.
But I didn’t remember the books.
Funny how there are always books.
Funny how so much can change, how you can change, and how so much time can pass, yet one object can take you back
in a heartbeat.
Tomorrow, I’ll take it down to the basement knowing that I’ll forget all about it, as I had for all these years.
But every now and then, as I venture downstairs to empty the dehumidifier or bring up the Christmas decorations, I’ll spy it sitting in a corner.
(And I’ll smile wistfully.)
And I’ll remember when.
And then I’ll hear Riley running through the house, the tap of his nails on the wood floors awakening me from my nostalgia.
And I’ll think, how strange it is, to go from playing house to owning a house.
How strange to go from imagining a life to living it.
How beautiful to go from just living a life to loving it.
(twenty years later — the real deal)
And as I climb the stairs to find Riley and whatever trouble he’s getting into, I’ll shut the basement light, and that dollhouse will remain forgotten in darkness until I shed light on it again.
I think, in a few years. I’ll get rid of it in a few years…
But right now, I just want to have this something to hold onto.
I just want this memory to remain.
Just a little while longer…
Update: I sent my dad an email with a link to this post and all the pictures of the dollhouse this morning; he wrote back saying that he’s never emailing me again at work because it made him tear up. Which made me tear up.
And then I realized this:
Maybe the reason I’m so prone to nostalgia, why I cling to my memories, is because all of those memories seem to be rooted in family.
And there is nothing more important to me than family. The memories can fade, the toys can be sold or stored away, but this one fact will always remain the same, the one thing that I’ll always hold onto. The one thing that I will never concede.