do you remember your favorite childhood toy? many people have a teddybear, dolly, or even an action figure that they cherish from when they were young. even though i didn’t really have one of these, i did have my dollhouse.
though i have only a few real memories of my earliest years, i remember the day that i saw it for the first time . . . my mom, guiding me into my room . . . my hands blocking my eyes so not to ruin the surprise . . . my grandma and grandpa standing off to the side, eagerly awaiting the big unveiling . . . my dad snapping pictures. it was my fourth birthday and i was about to see one of the most treasured presents i will ever receive in my life.
i had no way of knowing, at that time, just how significant that gift was . . . not just to me, but to others in the room. my grandpa and grandma had spent many long hours lovingly creating this dollhouse for their only granddaughter. for my grandpa, it was the culmination of years spent making things out of wood. this was to be his final project, as he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and his time of being able to work on projects like this was quickly slipping away. i was only four years old and still quite young for such a “big girl” gift. however, it was important for my grandpa to do this (with the help of my grandma) before it was too late. he wanted this memory for me. i didn’t know it then, but he was teaching me a valuable lesson in how to be a grandparent . . . one i hope to put to practice someday myself . . . to love unconditionally, to give of your time and talent, and to do everything in your power to make memories that will last a lifetime.
after opening my eyes and seeing this beautiful dollhouse that was now all mine, i quickly began opening up present after present which contained pieces of furniture and family members to fill up my new house. it was wonderful! as a parent, i can now understand how it is to witness the delight of your own child, and i am sure that my parents saw that in me.
i played with my dollhouse for years and years. the *festrunk family that lived there was so very real to me. it was (and still is) one of my most cherished possessions and i did everything in my power to keep it safe. in fact, i was so paranoid of a tornado hitting our house and destroying it, that every time we had a bad storm i would have my dad take it to the basement for safe keeping. a little bit dramatic, i know! i knew that if i ever had a daughter, that this beautiful gift would one day be hers, and hopefully, she would love it as much as i had.
fast forward to september, 2006. tom and i are expecting our first child and are awaiting the confirmation of either a jack or a lily at the ultrasound appointment. when i heard that i was having a little girl i immediately had visions of pigtails and princesses, of dance recitals and doll babies. needless to say, if you’ve read this blog at all, you know that lily is not your typical “girl”. as the years have gone on, i have known that the dollhouse was waiting for it’s new owner, but would she even want it? from playing with one at the museum center, i thought there was a chance she might, but i wasn’t sure. her preferences and attitudes towards things change like the wind.
i decided now was as good a time as ever to give her this gift.
a few weeks ago, i got to cleaning. i had read online of what not to do in cleaning an old dollhouse and how to bring it back to life. i laundered curtains . . . i vacuumed . . . i did windows . . . and i dusted everything in sight! then it was time to move on to the furnishings. as i opened each box and unwrapped each piece it was like seeing old friends. there was the piano that played “The Way We Were” when you lift the lid . . . the tiny blue plates with white speckles . . . the baby basinett . . . and “buddy” the dog, who only had three legs. (my dad having cut one off so he could be like our own three-legged family pet of the same name.)
as much as i enjoyed the walk down memory lane, i was also left with a few questions too. like where was the rest of the grandpa’s body? (i had only found his head rolling around in the bottom of the box. disturbing!) also, what happened to the Christmas tree? i guess i’ll never know!
i admit that i cried through much of this process. not just about the memories of my childhood that is now long gone, but because i was missing my grandparents and wishing they were still here to talk with during this time. now that i am older, i can appreciate the time and talent that went into it’s design. as i hand-washed each curtain, i thought about my grandma, sitting at her sewing table and carefully adding trims and stitching to make each panel detailed. and i thought about my grandpa and the hands that wrote the word “stairs” which i uncovered underneath the wobbly staircase that i removed and re-glued into place. again, it was a beautiful reminder of love and loss.
finally, i was finished. i had decided some time ago, that the dollhouse needed a safe place where lily could play and would be out of reach of little fat gus fingers. the best place was at my mom and dad’s house, and it will remain there until our house in florida is built and we can move it to the playroom. i called my mom, who was thrilled to get to see the finished product, and told her i would be over to set it up after lily was in bed. my mom and i had the best time
playing . . . er . . . setting it up. i had to keep begging her not to cry because i knew once i started it would be hard for me to stop. it was really a therapeutic experience and a whole lot of fun!
when i left my mom’s house that evening, i prayed to the Lord for how the next day would be. like many people, i often have unrealistic expectations of how i think things should go. in fact, i’m a lot like Clark Griswold, setting “standards that no family activity can live up to.” in a perfect, Norman Rockwell world, lily would run to the dollhouse squealing and telling me how much she loved it and how it was the best thing she’d ever seen, etc. etc. however, i know my little girl and how things can be hit or miss with her. the only thing i could do was pray. i asked God to soften her heart . . . to check her attitude and to help her enjoy things as a little girl should, instead of trying to act so “adult” and reject things because they aren’t “boy” enough. i prayed for her to enjoy playing with it as i had, but also for myself that i wouldn’t get my feelings hurt should she not be as excited as i hoped.
i had wanted to recreate the surprise for lily that i had experienced myself, so tom and my parents were all there to watch the surprise unfold. finally, the moment came and she and i walked into the room, just as i had so many years earlier . . . her little hands protecting her eyes from peeking and ruining the surprise . . . and my dad snapping pictures like he was a member of the paparazzi!
as you will see from the video . . . she LOVED it and this made for one happy mama!
i am so thankful that the surprise went as well as it did. it made for a very happy day for all of us. i absolutely praise God for such a positive experience. lily has told me many times already how much she loves it, and i know this to be true since she’s played with it non-stop. she’s already had the family going on a picnic, taking naps, and even using the potty! we told lily that her nana and i would take her to hobby lobby so she could get a few new pieces for the house, but she told me she loves it just as it is. she didn’t even want to change the name of the family either!
i’d like to think that my grandparents were looking down in that moment and that they were rejoicing in seeing such happiness on the face of their great-granddaughter. like when i received it myself, i know that i will cherish this day forever.
(* in case you didn’t know, the family got it’s name from those “two wild and crazy guys” on saturday night live. thanks a lot, dad!)