About a year after my first daughter was born, I had a conversation with a beloved sister-in-law about a "perfect" dollhouse we imagined together. It would be made of wood and everything in it would be made of natural materials--no plastic or fake fur or imitation anything! This dollhouse would be made to scale for dolls that were 8-10" tall, which are easier for small hands to manage. The covers on the beds would be miniature quilts, the pillows would be needlepointed, the samplers on the walls would be hand embroidered, and the blankets on the beds would be hand knitted. Of course, a dollhouse made to the scale I am describing would be big......very big. The woodworker who constructed it thought I was "slightly off my nut." That's an old English expression. In fact, it is 46" tall, 47" wide, and 18" deep. There are three floors. The ground floor is comprised of the living room and the kitchen; the second floor has three bedrooms. There is a play room and nursery on the third floor. If this sounds big to you, we're not done yet, There was originally a second half just as big in which we had a general store, a hat shop, and a school. (That was my vision--my daughters had various tribes of Calico Critters living there, with--horrrors--lots of plastic furniture. But that was later.)
My daughters have eight aunties on their father's side and along with my mother, these women made the most wonderful things for this dollhouse! It became a group effort. My mother needlepointed beautiful rugs for the floors, I embroidered samplers and made quilts, and wove rag rugs. One aunt made loaves of brread from salt dough and wonderful soft dolls to live in the dollhouse. Another knitted blankets for the beds, and still another crocheted a miniature afghan "throw" to toss over the sofa. Many of our ideas came from this remarkable book by Sara B. Stein called A Family Dollhouse. This book is now out of print but can be located through used book stores online.
Sara must have been something of a "supernova" crafter because she went way beyond little quilts for the beds and needle-pointed rugs. She made a complete set of stoneware dishes (too cute for words), copper pots and pans for the kitchen, faux finish furniture, a soapstone hand carved fireplace, and a porcelain bathtub!!!! Her house was smaller and had a secret room where two green frogs lived--verrry cool in my estimation. But hey, I wasn't writing a book, so I did not make tiny beeswax candles or big Italian sausages to hang from the kitchen ceiling!
The daughters grew up. The dollhouse went through five moves, three across state lines, and spent four years in a damp, mouse infested locker. Half of it got sold because of "down-sizing", but all that time I had it in the back of my mind to do something with the surviving half when I was finally settled in our "forever" house with Mr. Bill. When the little bears started showing up where the dolls live in the House on Blinker Street, I realized the little guys needed a home of their own, and bingo (!) the light went on!
So yesterday was Moving Day. All the boxes were opened and the treasures brought out for the first time in 15 years. Nerves were frayed and Pommelraie had it out with Max over who would have the middle bedroom. Much growling and pushing. Little Timmy got overwhelmed and threw a tantrum and no one could get him to stay in his crib up in the nursery, Finally Clemence got the middle bedroom and read Timmy a story to put him to sleep. Max had to spend the night on the sofa because of his bad manners.
Pommelraie got the left bedroom all for himself. He needs his peace and quiet, being such a thoughtful bear.
Dinah, Dashielle, Willy, and Loki are sharing the right hand bedroom. Being rather little bears, they don't mind.
Here is Timmy in the midst of his tantrum in his crib up in the nursery:
And here is Clemence in the middle bedroom calmly waiting for someone to bring Timmy down stairs for a putting-to -sleep story:
Clemence's room has a beautiful felted tapestry by the felting artist, Sara Lechner, on the back wall, which makes it an especially cozy place to snuggle in with a good book on cold winter days. Meanwhile, Pepino has snuck down to the kitchen and is preparing to eat a blueberry pie all by himself.
Claudia has just awoken in the rocking chair in the playroom up on the third floor. She's worn out from trying to get Timmy to go to sleep!
The rocking horse above was created by a wood carver whose name escapes me.) Now for a full view of the Red Cottage at Riverbend:
How good it is to see it come alive again!! These little bears are waiting for the Sweet Pea to be six or seven so she can safely play with it, as her mother and aunt Jeannie did when they were small. Sometimes, if we carry our memories/dreams carefully in our pocket, they can spring out and surprise us once again, bringing with them warmth and sweetness from the past, a place we can occasionally visit, but cannot stay.