15 May 2006

Of dollhouses and coat racks

One year around Christmas time - I think I was 8 or so and Sara was 5 - my Dad was building something in the family room. When we asked what it was, he said that he didn't know, maybe a bookcase, maybe a dollhouse, maybe something else. And, as this was still a few months before books completely won the battle for my soul and for the available space in my home, I said "Oh, please, make a dollhouse! We don't have a dollhouse!" Dad said "We'll see," which even then I knew meant "no," and I'm pretty easy to fool, so I figured that it would be some dumb ol' bookcase (see how much my life has changed?) instead of a dollhouse and I went on my way.

Cut to Christmas morning. The tradition in my family is that one gift gets opened on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas Day and that gifts from Santa Claus aren't wrapped. (It was Santa who gave me all of the Little House books the following Christmas thus sealing my doom as a book person. Santa is a pusher. Or maybe an enabler.) Ă…nyway, there under the tree was a our beautiful dollhouse which was made not only by Dad, but by Mom and my grandparents. Dad built the three-story townhouse-style house. He put hardwood floors on all three levels, but the kitchen floor is - of course - not sanded smooth and varnished gleaming as the upper two floors are. The kitchen also has a beamed ceiling. My mother hung the wall paper on the upper two levels, and made a stained glass window for each of the upper two levels. My grandfather made the four poster bed and my grandmother sewed all the bedding for it. It had furniture and people and even art because my mother took a very small picture of me as a baby and framed it to hang on the wall. She - or Dad - also made "records" by cuting out the pictures of records that the record clubs would have on the blow-in cards in magazines.

It was a truly wonderful dollhouse and I played with it often. When I was in 7th grade, Mom took the smallest of my school pictures and framed it. By sheer chance it looks - at a very quick glance - like a famous artwork and people would look into the dollhouse, see my picture on wall, and say "Oh, you have the Mona -- no, you don't." So we called the picture the Mona Leta.

When my nieces were little, they played with the dollhouse and because Cheryl, clearly, is more closely related to me than to any other member of our family, she elbowed Angela out of the way and dominated all dollhouse-based activity. Mom eventually created an alternate dollhouse for Angela by clearing out a small bookcase and filling it with other doll furniture. If the subject of the dollhouse comes up and someone refers to "you girls playing with the dollhouse," Angela will point out that *Cheryl* played with the dollhouse, she (Angela) played with a *bookcase.*

When Mom was downsizing to get ready to move from the 3-bedroom house to the 1-bedroom apartment, she asked me what I would like and I said "The piano, the lamp that you made, and the dollhouse." "Well, I have to check with the girls." "Why? It's my dollhouse." "Yes, but they played with it, too." "Yeah, and it's my dollhouse." So it came to me and lives with me in the condo and I still love it.

Recently I was explaining to the girls about the trust provisions in Mom's will for them. (Those lucky girls will inherit two generations of debts and crap, one day from Mom and then later from me.) They will get half of Mom's estate and all of mine (the poor dears). So we were talking about how they would inherit, among other things, my condo, at which point Angela suggested that I leave *her* the condo and leave Cheryl ... the dollhouse.

*This year* for Christmas Dad made me a lovely coat rack/shelf to put in my front entryway. Its made from poplar and has brass hooks and fits nicely between the front door and the closet. Because I am (all together now) never home, it hasn't been hung, but it will be.

(Warning: this paragraph contains my hazy memory of what people said/suggested/thought/indicated and is probably chock full of misinterpretation and poor recall. Just sayin'.) David and I are still debating the best way to install it. Dad recommended drilling holes into it and putting a bolt though the holes and into the studs. David opined that a condo built in 1988 (or so) probably has eight studs in any given building, and that drilling though the front would lack aesthetic pleasingness, but John (make a point of doing shows with contractors, plumbers, electricians, etc. You'll learn a lot) said that no, there would still be a stud every 18 or 24 inches. So I suggested that we ask Andy if he could route two key-holes into the back and we can hang it thus. David agreed that this might work. And there we remain. Because Andy's theater schedule is as busy as mine.

But my lovely coat rask will get hung one day. And everytime I see it, even now as it leans up against the wall, waiting to be installed, I'll think of my Dad, who makes beautiful presents.

Maybe Angela will inherit the condo and Cheryl will get the doll house and the coat rack....


David Gorsline said...

What I said was: the studs on that wall probably won't be conveniently placed for mounting your project. And no "e" in "rout," in this sense.

MacDurk said...

What a charming story, particularly the part about unique buildings and the Mona Leta - it could figure in the Dan Brown blockbuster sequel titled "Da Hall Code".
When I got to the part about your hanging the coat rack, I found myself wondering "how is she going to hang it?" Aside from "with style of course" it occurs to me that men in general like to figure out how to put things together, and women in general like to figure out how to put people together (per your comment on "tablework.") Think of it as technical engineering complementing social engineering. Or perhaps that is oversimplifying.
In any case, I concur that keyhole routs on the back of the coat rack would be most pleasing aesthetically. If the studs are not appropriately spaced, expanding molly bolts should work - I've used them with a large mirror. And if Andy is not available, I could lend you and David a router. Power tools gooooood....