When I was a kid, I was really into dollhouses. I had a couple of them, from a small one my grandfather made me to a fancy one I saved up for ages to buy for myself. I had rooms full of furniture, cars for the garage, food for the kitchen. Oh, and an entire backstory for the family that lived there, complete with written history (divorces, marriages, intricate personality details….I guess that was the beginning of my writing life, although I didn’t know it at the time). Anyway, eventually I grew out of my dollhouse, packed it all up and stuck it in my mom’s attic. A few years ago, when she was in one of her big clean-and-purge modes, she called me up to say I needed to come get it and put it in MY attic. (I have learned to heed these messages: when my mom is moving stuff out, she MOVES stuff out. As a kid, she’d give your favorite sweater to the thrift shop if you weren’t quick to claim it.) So the dollhouse has been in my attic, with all the furniture and food and everything else, just kind of waiting.
Then, I had a little girl. Who loves tea parties and already has a wild imagination (which is great, although I hope she doesn’t inherit all the crazy writer neurosis that comes along with it). She also loves dollhouses, although she’s not quite ready for mine yet, as it’s so big and has so many small pieces. On the way back from the beach, though, we passed this yard sale in the middle of nowhere. Just driving along, zoned out, but then I look over and see….this dollhouse. Small, plastic. Perfect. I hit the brakes, did a U-turn. My babysitter was like, “How did you even SEE that?” But when you know dollhouses, you know dollhouses. It’s like a kind of radar or something. I pulled up, hopped out, and walked over to check it out. The price: one dollar. ONE! I guess I can thank the real estate market slump for that.
We brought it home, put some plastic people in it and Sasha was so happy. Later, I went up to the attic and rummaged around in my old dollhouse boxes until I found a few sturdy pieces I knew she could handle. It was like nostalgia, full on: this little bunk bed and stove I’d played with for HOURS, and now I’m playing with it again with my girl. I know, I know, it’s so sappy. But we have spent hours just ringing that little doorbell and having people come in and out. Sit around the table. Get on the bed and go to sleep. She’s really only interested in moving them around, in and out, but of course my mind is already going. What’s the story with all these people in a house, together, with bunk beds? I’m thinking it’s a halfway house, or maybe the setting for a reality show. Maybe a cult? They are eating a lot of meals around a big table. People are always knocking on the door. And there are a LOT of cars in the garage. Maybe it’s a good sign that I’m thinking this way: maybe it means my writing brain is ready to get back to work. Until I’m sure, though, I’ll just hang with these little people, and my little person, and see what happens.
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