1” scale

     It all started a couple of summers ago at my garage sale.  (Garage sales are a separate topic, equally as interesting, that I may write about another time.)  My friend, Marie, dropped off a few things that she wanted to get rid of, including an old dollhouse.  A friend had given it to her, but her daughter wasn’t really that interested in it, and Marie does not hold on to things for no good reason.  She asked me if I wanted it, and though I entertained the idea, I finally decided that my girls probably would not play with it either, and I didn’t have room for it.  So we slapped a price tag of $15 on it (which was a steal), included a Ziploc bag of mini-household items and some broken furniture, and I knew someone would snatch it right up. 

Well, I was right.  The person who snatched it up was my sister, who lives in Northern Michigan.  She called me to ask how the garage sale was going, and when I told her about the dollhouse, she was ecstatic.  She wanted it.  Would I keep it for her in my basement for a month or two until she came to visit?  Of course I would.  Sold - to my sister for $15. 

So, there the dollhouse sat in my basement.  I thought about how much she was going to love it every time I went down to use my treadmill.  I’d stop and look at the tiny little pieces.  There was a lot of broken furniture, but there were also so many cute little kitchen items.  A white-speckled sky-blue coffee pot with little coffee cups, hand-painted pitchers and platters, and copper buckets.  Brooms made out of toothpicks and straw.  Over time, the more I went downstairs and stopped and looked at this little house, the more I started wishing I had snatched it up myself.  But it was my sister’s, fair and square.  The day came when she put it in the back of her suburban and drove away, and that was the end of it.  From that point on, I didn’t think about it much.  That is, until one day when I was walking through Hobby Lobby and I saw them.  Displayed up high, fully assembled and beautifully decorated, a whole collection of gorgeous dollhouses that left my sister’s dollhouse in the dust. 

     For my 38th birthday, I asked my husband and kids for a dollhouse kit from Hobby Lobby.  I chose the Vermont Farmhouse, a modest selection, not the most fancy Victorian model, but not the one that looked like a gingerbread house either.  It was somewhere in the middle, kind of like my real house, except this one had what I have always wanted – a porch.  I left it in the box for a month or two, because as much as I wanted to start working on it, it intimidated me. 

For my first step, I took all the pieces out of the box, labeled everything, and read the instructions cover to cover.  Then I let all the pieces sit there for a while longer, while I mustered up the courage to start painting, wallpapering and finally, gluing.  The gluing was the scariest because it was so permanent.  If the walls went up even slightly crooked, then the entire building would be off, and it would look more like a haunted house than a lovely dollhouse.

     I used leftover paint from my real house, and my girls designed and helped paint the three rooms in the attic – one for each of them.  I wallpapered the kitchen, even though I don’t think I would wallpaper my real house, and I painted the front door red.  I chose light gray for the outside with white trim.  I dyed the shingles gray, and my husband and I used a hot glue gun for the first time and shingled the roof.  I have to say, the kit was expertly built, with precise cuts and measurements, everything going together without a hitch.  It gave Bernie and me sort of a false sense of confidence, like maybe we should start volunteering with Habitat now that we’ve shingled a roof.

A couple of my friends thought it was a great hobby, but I think Marie thought I was a little off my rocker.  She called me one night when I was wallpapering the kitchen, and when I told her what I was doing, I think she said something like, “oh, how nice…how ‘bout you come over to my house and help me take down the wallpaper in my real kitchen?”  I couldn’t really explain why, but it was so satisfying and fun to build this house with my own hands:  to choose where the walls should go, how big each room should be, where the stairs should go, what colors should go where.  My girls loved it, too.  They each contributed in different ways, mixing paint colors, painting, setting up furniture.  We put white rocking chairs on the porch with a little table with lemonade.  We bought little flowerpots and tiny scraps of fake flowers.  I made an area rug out of some left over fabric.  I fashioned a wreath out of a strip of berry garland.  My most creative moment was when I made a toilet paper holder out of toothpicks and real toilet paper.  I began looking around my big house for items I could replicate, shrink, and use as furnishings in my little house, all the while thinking, “Who does this?  I must be crazy…”

     At the risk of sounding weird, I think my love for this dollhouse runs soul-deep.  Having worked on it for hours, I can almost imagine what it would be like to be miniature myself, sitting on the porch sipping lemonade, then walking through the red front door into the living room, then going left into the kitchen.  I’d go to the stove and fill up my copper teakettle with water from my country sink, and sweep my hardwood floors while the water boiled.  I might make my way up the stairs, through the master bedroom with the brass bed and lovely wreath on the wall, into the bathroom, and maybe drink my tea while bathing in the claw-foot tub.

     For me, this feeling of home really is about family – my deep longing for family.  It’s the same longing I’ve had at times when walking through my neighborhood.  I see a driveway with several cars in it on a Saturday morning, and I imagine a family gathered around a kitchen table for a weekend breakfast.  Maybe teenagers - football players with enormous appetites.  Everyone sharing about their week, or their plans for the day.  Yard work, soccer games, maybe a barbeque later in the afternoon.  Sure, I know that this is my imagination.  That the families in those houses may be zoned out in front of the TV or totally disconnected or at each other’s throats.  The family I grew up in bears a good amount of brokenness.  My parents are divorced and I haven’t spoken with one of my brothers in over 10 years.  We are never all together, and in a way I hope we never are, because that would probably mean we are at a funeral. I don’t blame any one person.  And I love my family – each person as they are.  I have accepted the present reality.  But I still carry some sadness.  I still yearn for family, unbroken and whole. 

     I have a sign in my real house that says, Home is where your story begins.”  Most of what I do in my life each day is with the awareness that choices I make today will impact my family in the future.  This is sobering, because so often I don’t get it right.  My kids are broken in some ways because I am broken.  My husband is broken.  We long to be whole, complete, but it is still a work in progress.  Even still, that family I dream of?  I’m in it.  Those are my kids, gathered around the breakfast table on a Saturday morning, eating pancakes with maple butter and bacon, talking about their week, and our plans for the weekend.  That’s my husband and me, not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but committed to keeping our family intact.  Building something that will last, one day at a time.

-Becky Baudouin