Monday, December 01, 2014

The Doll House

I frequently start these blogs with only a general idea of a theme, and just let my fingers take over without much conscious direction. This one is a bit different in that I am not sure what approach to take with it. Writing of memories is always a slippery slope, threatening to slide into the deep sense of longing and loss that so many people experience during the holidays. So I’ll try to avoid it. We shall see.

Memories are based not on specific incidents alone, but everything that led up to them. I awoke this morning thinking of my doll house, and what led up to it, and to the special place it holds in my heart.

I was tempted to say that I was a strange child until I realized that being strange is part of being a child. When I was around six or seven, I announced to my parents that I wanted a doll house for Christmas. I really did. I really, really did. My father, of course, adamantly refused to even consider such a thing. He probably already suspected I would grow up to be gay, and wanted to discourage any overt signs of femininity in his son. 

He did not realize that I wanted a doll house not because I related it with anything at all to do with girls, but simply because it was an extension of my very active fantasy life. I wanted a doll house filled with doll-house furniture so that I could then have imaginary fights in the house and knock over all the furniture.

My family was what they used to call “lower middle class.” Both my parents worked  hard at full-time jobs all their lives. I had no idea at the time, of course, just how hard they worked and what they sacrificed to provide for me. I can never recall ever having to go without something I really needed, and I almost always got what I asked for for Christmas. 

A doll house, however, even if my father had approved, would have been an expensive gift. So, with my dad refusing to allow my mom to buy me one, she made me one…from an old wooden orange crate. There were only two rooms—orange crates had a center divider—and the furniture she was able to find was far out of proper proportion to the “rooms.” I don’t recall now what else she did to make an orange crate into a house, but she did her best, and I do hope I was properly appreciative—though, being a child who wanted a “real” doll house, I may not have been. But the thing was, I wanted a doll house and my mother got me one.

A slight pause between paragraphs while I forced myself to step back from the slippery slope and shift my focus from sorrow for her loss to unfathomably deep gratitude that I had her…that I had both my parents…in my life at all. 

All memories are part of who we are, and the holiday season seems especially rich in memories. The mind is drawn to them like iron filings to a magnet. Mine are filled with Christmas parties and family get togethers, good friends and laughter; the smell of pine needles; bubble-light Christmas ornaments; exchanging gifts—and being as excited to see the reactions of those to whom I’d given them as I was to open my own; Dad’s Tom & Jerrys; the every-Christmas jar of olives from Aunt Thyra; the smell of her Estee Lauder talcum powder…they are and will always be part of my life, just as your memories are a part of your own life. And I hope, when you reflect on your own memories, you can view them not with sorrow of loss but with warmth and love for having had them at all.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

Perhaps it was easier for boys my age during the decade I grew up to have a doll house of our own without anything thinking about it as a doll house. We had Legos, so we could make our own houses and furniture. And if that didn't work, we had Star Wars play sets. They were futuristic kinds of houses, but houses just the same, only disguised. Gotta tell you some of my male action figures had the BEST sleepovers! Plus, they got lucky.