Victoria brought the Loving Family dollhouse into our family then passed it along to Vivi. One Christmas, Santa brought rooms of new furniture and a dappled gray horse for the family that lived there. The next year, he brought a silver minivan, a baby brother, a Nana and a Cousin Jake. By the next Christmas, Cousin Jake had been renamed to Carlos.
I moved Grandmama Eunice’s drop-leaf table out from under the living room window to make room for the Loving Family as they grew. The house lived right there, in plain view of the dining room table, and many nights Vivi would play there while G and I finished dinner or tended to Carlos.
I never had a dollhouse like that. Every few days, grown up Ashley indulged Little Ashley by spending a few minutes tidying it up. I fetched all the scattered pieces from the floor then arranged the dining room chairs and the tiny dessert buffet next to the grandfather clock. The little girl’s room had a pink canopy bed like I had always wanted. I put the pillow on her bed and pushed the blue tufted stool under the vanity table. I placed the bassinet and the changing table in the nursery then put the teensy baby monitor on the side table in the living room, right next to the Walkman with headphones. The kitchen counter folded out–the perfect spot to set the grocery bag. In the barn next to the house, I set up the white rail fence and hitched the horse to it. Playing with the dollhouse brought me peace. Where else could I set everything to rights in a couple of minutes?
As Carlos grew, he played with it too. Mostly he would toddle over to it and wipe all the furniture to the floor while we yelled, “Godzilla! Godzilla!”
Two years ago, I moved it to the basement play room and no one seemed to notice. We’ve been walking around it for a while so I decided this weekend to make the big leap and big farewell. Actually, it was a pretty quick decision because G had the girls out for the afternoon and my friend Susan had just told me about how easy it is to clean the house of old toys with a few black garbage bags and a couple of hours to oneself.
The years have taken their toll on our Loving Family. I hung the pink doors back on their hinges and reattached the barn to the house. Wiped the crayon swirls off the floor with a Magic Eraser. I even tried to comb Nana’s hair. All the furniture went into a gallon Ziploc bag. I checked to make sure the baby had a stroller and a bottle and a bassinet. I wiped down the dining room chairs and found the tiny pieces of cherry pie on yellow placemats.
I needed to move quickly, to get the deed done before I had time for my nostalgia to catch up. It’s hard to say farewell to the Loving Family. I struggled with saying goodbye to the tiny spaces that had brought all of us some kind of joy over the years.
When I pulled it out of the back of the car at the Project Safe thrift store, the volunteer clapped her hands and squeaked with delight.
I set the dollhouse into the rolling canvas bin that she had brought to the car to receive my things. “I taped all the pieces here…and here. And all the furniture is there. I think the van is in the other bag…”
She patted me on the arm and “This will be someone’s Christmas.”
Some little person will wake up to a Loving Family of their own next month. And Project Safe will have made a few dollars to put towards supporting survivors of domestic abuse.
But I think the gift has already been given–to me. When I think about someone else setting out dinner for Nana and Cousin Jake, or taking the horse for a gallop around the yard, my heart feels tidy, with everything in its place.