Today, I remember my Dad. But then again I remember him every day. He was there for my wonderful childhood and stroppy, difficult teenage years, but gone before I got the chance to show him who I’d become.
Dad was stolen from our lives by neurone disease over thirty years ago. Not only did my mum lose her closest friend and I, a father, but my children never got to meet him, or he them. I can only imagine how proud he’d be of each and every one of them.
However, believe it or not he was a big part of their childhood, all because of a gift he made for me as a child over forty years ago. I’ve written of this before, but I as I walked past that gift this morning I paused and stopped a moment to have a quick word with Dad and as I did I remembered this post.
I was the fourth of five children but I don’t remember us wanting for much. During the year, unless it were a special occasion we didn’t get gifts, but on our birthdays and at Christmas our parents really pushed the boat out.
Each Christmas Eve, unlike our friends who hung up their stockings, we would hang a makeshift clothes line across the roof of our kitchen. Then each one of us would get our largest pair of trousers and peg them up on it. As if that wasn’t enough we would then put a chair underneath for any overflow! So, as you can imagine, toys were plentiful Christmas morning.
Looking back, the years have blended into one another and I have little memory of the many gifts Santa brought, but one Christmas in particular fills my childhood memory.
It was the Christmas I was seven years old. For weeks or maybe months before, I knew a very special present was coming my way. My very own dolls house.
In the garage beside our house, Dad was working on it. Sometimes I’d stand outside listening as he banged and sawed trying to imagine what it might look like, peeping past him when he’d emerge, pencil behind his ear, only to see it hidden under a large blanket. To this day I’m unsure why I never snuck in for a peep, but I didn’t.
Finally, Christmas morning came and there it was. I can still remember my sense of wonder the first time I set eyes on it. This morning, over forty years later, as I stood awhile running my fingers over it, I still marvel at its magnificence.
It stands almost three feet tall and three feet long. To a ‘small for her age’ seven year old, it was enormous. The front of the house was closed in, its walls painted in white stipple paint, as if it had been plastered, just like our own house. There were three curtained windows on the top floor and two on the bottom. The roof was exactly the same shape as the roof of every picture a child draws of a house.
However, it was when you turned the house around, that the real wonder was revealed. It was a large two storey house. A central stairway of polished wood, with a turn half way up, led to the upstairs. There, to the left, just off a small landing, was a large bedroom and to the right a medium size bathroom.
Downstairs was a sizable 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 and dining room, or move the wall and have a large family kitchen. There was a small room under the stairs, whose use varied. Sometimes a playroom, sometimes a TV room.
The downstairs floor was of laminated wood, and the walls had been wallpapered. This had been the work of my mum, who also made chairs, a table and cupboards, as well as beds with tiny pillows and bedding.
It was the most perfect dolls house anyone could have dreamed of.
I cannot begin to tell you the hundreds of hours I spent kneeling in front of it. So many adventures happened within its walls 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 up and moved away from my dolls house into my own home. In time I gave birth to a daughter and a new future loomed for my dolls house. Even though it nearly killed me I refused to let her see it until I felt she’d appreciate it. Finally at the age of three my dolls house moved from the home in which my dad had lovingly created it, into my home, hundreds of kilometres away.
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. However, toys had changed in the intervening years and for my daughter there were a great many small dolls available, so from the beginning she had a bigger family living there than I ever did.
It is over twenty years since my daughter first played with my dolls house. In the intervening years its been loved by my own four children, (my son included), the two little girls I minded, my friend’s children, my godchildren and the many visitors who have called to our house. I have no doubt that when Dad was busy making it for me he could never have dreamed of the many little hands that would have played with it, whilst chatting freely, unaware and uncaring who heard them, lost in their far away worlds.
From the beginning my children have sensed how special this dolls house. I suspect when dad made it for me, he could never have imagined he was making it for grandchildren he would never meet.
A link I cherish, as I remember and miss him today.
Happy Father’s Day Dad. xxx