What is the greatest handmade gift you have ever received? This was yesterdays daily prompt, and one I could not let go. For my favourite gift I have ever received in my life to date, was hand made for me at the age of seven, and it is a gift I treasure to this day.
I was the fourth of five children. We were not well off but we wanted for nothing. During the year we didn’t get regular presents for no reason, but on our birthdays and at Christmas our parents really pushed the boat out. On a Christmas Eve, unlike our friends who would hang up their stockings to be filled, we would hang a makeshift clothes line across the roof of our kitchen. Then each one of us would go get a pair of our trousers and peg them up on it. As if that wasn’t enough we would then put a chair underneath for any overflow! So now you get it, toys were plentiful at Christmas, it was only years later, when I asked my mother how she managed to buy all those presents, that she told me she began to save the second week in January.
The Christmas I was seven was different. No doubt my parents spoiled us that Christmas as usual, but I have no memory of any of Santas wonderful gifts. Instead I remember the present they gave me, the gift I had waited eagerly for. The gift I had stood outside the garage imagining. The gift I heard my dad banging and sawing at inside the garage. The gift hidden under a blanket, which I had imagined in my mind. My very own handmade dolls house, made by my Dad, and decorated by my Mom. The first time I set eyes on it I thought, ‘Wow’. Forty years later I still look at it and think ‘Wow’.
It was way beyond anything I could have dreamed of. Standing almost three feet tall and over three feet long, to a small for her age, seven year old, it was enormous. The front was closed in with three curtained windows on the top floor and two on the bottom. It was painted in stipple white paint which made it appear as if it was plastered, just like our own house. The roof was exactly the same as the roof every child draws when drawing a house.
However it was when you turned the house around, that the real wonder was revealed. It was a large two storey house with a central wooden stairway with a turn in it half way up. Upstairs was a very large bedroom on the left, then a small landing area, and a medium size bathroom. The floors were carpeted and the walls wall papered.
Downstairs was a large sitting room, and a kitchen. However this was no ordinary kitchen. The dividing wall could be removed and put further along allowing me to play using a galley kitchen or else move the wall and have a large family kitchen. There was also a small room under the stairs, whose use varied. Sometimes a playroom, sometimes a TV room. The downstairs had a laminated wooden floor, and the walls were once again wallpapered. It was the most perfect dolls house anyone could have ever dreamed of owning.
I cannot begin to tell you the hundreds of hours I enjoyed kneeling in front of my dolls house. So many adventures happened there and who knows, maybe my love of storytelling was fostered by the many different lives I created for my dolls who lived there.
The years passed and inevitably I grew out of playing house, but my dolls house remained in my life. In time I gave birth to my daughter. I now had a new future home for my dolls house, and I couldn’t wait to share it with her. Even though it nearly killed me I waited until she was almost three before introducing them. I am not sure which of us was more excited that day, setting up the furniture and playing with the dolls. When I was a child, I had only ever found two dolls and a tiny dog to share the house, as most other dolls were too large. Toys had changed in the intervening years and for my daughter there were a great many different types of small dolls available, so from the start she had a bigger family living there than I ever did.
It is over twenty years since the first day my daughter played with my dolls house. It has been used by my own four children, (my son included), the two little girls I minded, my friends children, my godchildren and the many visitors who have been in our house. I have no doubt that when Dad was busy making it for me he could never have dreamed of the many different little ladies that would have knelt at his house, rearranging furniture, using tiny hands to move dolls from room to room whilst chatting freely, unaware and uncaring who heard them, so lost they were in their far away world.
Since the first day it arrived in this house, my children have sensed how special my dolls house is. It has always been a huge regret in my life that my Dad never got to meet my children, but by building me this dolls house he has been a very real part of their childhood. It is the toy I have without doubt, loved most in my life, and the only gift my Dad ever gave my children.
My dolls house, made with love and definitely the greatest gift that was ever hand made for me.