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.
photo credit: dmmalva via photopin cc</a
27 thoughts on “The only gift my father ever gave my children.”
Oooh, pictures? Can we have pictures? That sounds such an amazing dolls house, made with such love. My dad made me two little dolls houses, and I still have them although not the same scale as yours; and I still appreciate the love and effort that went into them.
I tried but they didn’t do it justice so I scrapped them. Suffice to say if you look at the photo of the ‘perfect’ little room I posted, well to me that was exactly the way I saw my dolls house.
Yes this was a real project of my dads and in a big family I feel so lucky to have received this gift.
Lovely, tric. Vividly re-collected. And that image of the clothesline and the trousers is brilliant.
Haha. That was so normal for us and we thought our friends were silly not to do the same, as Santa always filled ours!
I’m tempted to rob that one!
This really touched me Tric. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for reading Dan, glad you liked it.
I can imagine the importance of this gift. Then and now. Thank you for sharing it with us. I can see that 7 year old waiting…waiting…and loving it!
And I can remember it as if it were yesterday.
I would get lost in the memory of it and enjoy just gazing at it thinking of your father’s hands making this master piece of love.
A gift that continued to make family happy through generations. That would be the best handmade gift to receive.
Thanks April. In fact my children are now fighting as to who will ‘own’ it after me!
this is absolutely amazing, tric. what a wonderful gift of love this was and is –
Yes I agree a gift of love he could never have imagined lasting so many years and meaning so much to so many.
This is a lovely post, Tric. How wonderful to have the memory kept alive all these years.
It reminds me a bit of the Dad on the Barry’s Tea ad and the train set. Shivers of excitement , little and big children!
It was lovely to write it and remember that Christmas. Maybe I should contribute to the Barrys tea add. 🙂
Why not? Nothing ventured and all that!
What a lovely, amazing story. That doll’s house is not a mere gift…. it’s a legacy! xx
You are dead right. I hadn’t really thought of it like that. It is so very special to me personally but now my children are growing up I can see it is also special to them too.
Beautiful gift, beautiful story. The only memory I have is gifts galore under the tree each year, and some years as an adult, but there has never been a gift, made or given me out of the love of a parent, or that has passed the test of time. I am moved by your story.
I think I was very lucky Karen. There were five of us and I was just lucky enough to have got a hand made present to keep through all these years. I’m sure my parents struggled hugely to buy presents for my brothers and sisters which are long gone now.
The second I saw the title of this post I instantly thought of the dolls house that my own dad made from me when I was about the same age. He couldn’t hide it from me when building it so told me it was for the poor children who didn’t get any presents. When I opened it under the tree on Christmas morning I burst into tears because now the poor children wouldn’t get anything! Think my lovely Dad was a bit disappointed – but I changed my tune pretty quickly when he offered to bring it to them if I wanted 😉 I love your story and the fact that it brought to mind this memory again. Very special.
Oh wow another person with a dolls house. Do you still have it?
I love that your dad lied to you and then that you cried. I’m not sure I would have, I think I only became kind in later life!
Delighted I prompted you to relive that day.
How wonderful that you have this. Such an awesome memory attached to it as well.
Thanks Sue, it never fails to cheer me up when I look at it.
It’s a happy thought that a present made with so much love so many years ago is still bringing joy to your family all these years later.
The part about Christmas is very familiar. My brother and I sometimes got bought presents and sometimes handmade ones depending on what our family’s financial circumstances were like that year.
The funny thing is, when I was a child, I didn’t know or care about such things. One year in particular, my brother (who was a bit more boisterous that I was) got a handmade cowboy fort and I got a handmade farm because I loved animals. These were very well-loved and well-used toys, far more so than with most bought toys, because from the beginning they were built with an eye to the interests and personalities of their future owners.
Looking back now, I’m sure my parents must have derived a lot of pleasure from seeing their two children playing so happily with their gifts. The one thing I do regret, though, is that they never got any direct recognition for their work. My brother and I both thought that all Christmas presents came from Santa, so my parents were never properly thanked for all the many hours of effort they had made.