More Lessons from Mom
Here is part two of my piece about my mom. The picture above is the train table my parents built (I could have sworn) the same year I got the dollhouse. Turns out, upon examining the picture and date printed on the back that the train table came the year before the dollhouse. Isn’t it funny how your memory works? I’ve also added a couple pictures below of some of my childhood miniatures (yes, that is the cherry pie mentioned in the story). I don’t have much left, but a few pieces have survived. For scale, the cherry pie and plate below are about the size of a quarter.
Lesson: Be patient and pay attention and you might learn something wonderful!
The year I was six, I discovered the joys of snooping. My tendency to sneakiness was rarely nurtured in that little house. One lucky day I uncovered my mom’s jewelry box with her old contacts in their case, and some “Love Is…” poems, and a little jewelry, but I rarely snooped in Mom & Dad’s room. I had the rest of the house covered on a regular basis, except for the living room closet and the utility room. The living room closet contained Dad’s stereo equipment and records, and was therefore off limits. Getting in there with anyone else in the house was difficult. The utility room was another story altogether. I could be a model child and take my dirty laundry in to the hamper, or head in to get some food off the shelves to help Mom with dinner, and poke around a little while I was at it. The utility room was also right by the back door, and sometimes I’d yell to Mom that I was going outside to play and head into the utility room to hide. There was a space behind the dryer, a cubby that the dryer was too big to fit into, so it was completely empty. I could hide there for hours, with a flashlight and a book and maybe a blanket.
One late November day I duck into the utility room, and there, in front of the dryer, across the entire width of the walkway, is an odd, sheet-covered shape, almost as tall as me. I poke my head around the corner to make sure no one is in the kitchen to catch me snooping, and then I lift up one corner of the sheet. Underneath I find a house. A doll house! There are two big rooms downstairs, and a big room, then a small room, then a big room on the second floor. The attic is just one big room with a post in the middle. The inside is painted white, and the outside is white with brown stripes. This has to be for me! Nathan wouldn’t want a dollhouse and Abi isn’t even 2 yet. I cover everything back up and sneak back to my room to play, exhilarated with my secret.
Next week, there are windows and a door cut out of the back wall. Then, the roof is hinged to open the attic up as another room to play with. By the first week in December, one bedroom is painted pink, and one blue. Then carpet appears. By the time we put the Christmas tree up and decorate the house, some of the walls are trimmed out with chair rails or baseboards, and there is a working door with hinges and a brass doorknob. A couple of days before Christmas the dollhouse disappears for several days in a row. On Christmas morning I get up before its light outside and there it is, under the tree. A spiral staircase has been added and Mom put in a couch and two beds, but not much else.
“You can pick out what you want for each room, and we’ll make it.”
Lesson: You can make your own decisions.
We spent years decorating and redecorating my dollhouse. That was my favorite part. I never wanted dolls in there – they just never looked real. My dollhouse was a perfect world of my own, better than reality, because it was just exactly how I wanted it. Mom started getting kits through the mail to make authentic reproduction furniture, tiny armoires and four poster beds. The fixtures were perfect and everything worked. We even figured out how to make a real roll of toilet paper for the bathroom. I checked out books on dollhouses from the library, and learned that some are wired for electricity, and some even have running water! I never worked out utilities, but everything else about my little world was perfect.
Mom is trying out a new variation on the bread dough recipe we use to make food and accessories for my dollhouse. We start by tearing three pieces of white bread (crust removed) into small pieces, add 3 teaspoons of white glue and 1 teaspoon of glycerin and knead it up with our hands until it forms a smooth ball. Mom lets me do this today. When she kneads it doesn’t seem to take any time at all. But I’ve been squeezing forever! The sticky mass of dough squishes between my fingers as I knead, gradually working itself into a ball and pulling off of my fingers, leaving them completely clean of any scraps. Mom pulls off a piece and adds cinnamon to the natural colored bread dough, making the yeasty dough smell even more like baked goods. She flattens out a piece the size of a quarter, and then presses it into a bottlecap. Then we mix red paint with a small piece of dough, and roll tiny balls, not quite as big as the tapioca in my favorite pudding. These go into the bottlecap too, filling it up most of the way. The last part is more of the cinnamon dough, rolled into snakes about the size of a piece of spaghetti, and flattened out. Mom weaves these into about an inch and a half of latticework. We put the lattice on top, and pinch off the extra.
My cherry pie dried in a day, and Mom painted it with the clear varnish she used on the furniture. The chemical smell of the varnish faded as it dried, leaving only the scent of cinnamon. Apple pies were made the same way, but with creamy apple wedges, the size of a piece of rice, complete with the indentation from the core. Mom made fabulous wedding cakes decorated with minute roses, hamburgers with cheese and pickles, hotdogs with ketchup, mustard and chopped onions, and plates of vegetables. Anything I wanted to serve for dinner in my house we made. The plates used for the vegetables were also made by Mom in her pottery class. She threw these miniature plates and cups and fired them as stoneware. The plates were even signed!