Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Life in Miniature

I am sure there is some psychological study out there that examines people who take up the hobby of miniatures. Basement generals with their thousands of tin soldiers. Train enthusiasts who fill the dining room with plywood and sawhorses holding up track and switches instead of cups and dishes. I suspect that having a keen interest in tiny replicas of real life things could probably be a coping mechanism for having a chaotic, stressful life. Even role-playing gamers with their lead orcs and wizards like the order of a game board and pieces all set up properly. Well, I now self-diagnose myself among the anxious ranks of control freaks looking for a world in which they actually have absolute power over what happens.

I'm 43 years old and I've started outfitting a dollhouse.

I've had doll houses before, actually quite a few of them. I had a Barbie house, with a pull-string elevator. A Fisher-Price house with plastic peg people and a front door bell that dinged. But these all disappeared in donation boxes by the time I was twelve. My mother though had a real dollhouse that her grandfather had built out of wood, with glass windows. At some point, it was passed on to me, but it was already in pretty bad shape, the paint had peeled, the floors had lost their linoleum and carpet but not the chunky remnants of glue holding it down. I played with it, but it was the wrong size for my dolls. Barbies were too big to fit in it and new dollhouse furniture was the wrong scale for the somewhat primitively but solidly constructed house.

When my own girls were little, I gave it a makeover with colorful paints and bought a houseful of IKEA modern doll furniture that the kids played with for years, although at some point I lost patience with the set's plastic pointy edgedness and donated that as well.

The doll house then sat empty for a few years, getting repurposed as a storage unit, a book case, a junk drawer of mislaid toys. My daughters grew out of playing house age and I moved the dollhouse into my bedroom, set it up on a small table and ignored it, wondering how long it would be before someone played with it again.

One day last week I was out Christmas shopping, looking for small gifts for girlfriends in a cute boutique. Among the holiday ornaments, I saw a tiny Christmas tree with bottle brush metallic green branches, dangly red and silver ornaments, and teeny tiny faux candles. Just the right size for my dollhouse, I thought.

I took it home, cleared out the half-forgotten Legos, comic books, tissues, and ribbon, and set the little tree in the empty dollhouse. It had a sort of Zen beauty, but I started thinking a fireplace would look good there, and a wreath over the door...maybe a couch and table with miniature oriental rug next?

In the middle of running kids to school, to choir, to swim, to the theater, to church, to band, answering emails, making plans, attending meetings, cleaning house, folding laundry, making beds, paying bills, remembering to make dinner and clean up...it has been a pleasant distraction to fill up my dollhouse, with beds that stay made and living rooms that are always tidy.

There are no deadlines and noisy demands in dollhouse world. Of course, I don't sit and make stories for my dolls the way I did when I was little. That would be weird! It's enough to just have it there to look at once in a while and contemplate the order and beauty of the little things in its little life.

Probably some famous dictators and tyrants collected miniatures. Probably I am turning into my grandmother. If I start replacing my comfy living room furniture with Victorian reproductions and lace doilies on every surface, somebody slap me. But in the mean time, I'm going over to etsy to contemplate the adorable options in miniature wooden bathtubs. And look, the little scale even has numbers! Ooooo....

Currently, the dollhouse is peopled by Bl. Imelda, St. Bernadette, and St. Therese. The girls have gotten too old for their little wooden saints but they'll always have a home here.

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