We would visit my grandparents every year but never for Christmas. It was a four-hour drive to their house; and, we would always arrive after dark. The gloomy, dark farmhouse, surrounded by peppercorn and pine trees would rear up as the car lights flashed off.
The five of us would sleep close to each other and would wake each other during the night to go to the toilet. We would have to make a run for it up a cement path draped in peppercorn branches each time we wanted to go to the toilet. It was a terrifying place for us.
We did spend one Christmas at my grandparents’ house. My father must have been in-between jobs which meant that we were in-between houses. He was a station manager (or property manager) so when he had a job we lived on the property where he was the manager. These farms or stations were mostly very large and far from the nearest town. The bus trips to school were long and tiring.
This particular Christmas, my sister (she was my only sister then) and I received a dolls’ house from Santa Claus. We must have been about 4 and 3, respectively. The house was full of tiny pink and white furniture. One side of the house was open; the other was closed with windows and doors. It was painted white with a red roof and red shutters on the windows. We would play with that dolls’ house for hours.
That dolls’ house is now more than 40 years old and it sits beneath Clea’s bedroom window. The dolls’ house was given to Clea one Christmas (her 4th Christmas, just before her 5th birthday). She’d asked for it. She had played with it at her grandparents’ house. My father painted it and fixed it up for his only granddaughter. My mother bought new orange, green and blue furniture and new dolls for her only granddaughter. The old furniture sits awkwardly with the new furniture. Clea was very excited about her dolls’ house. It wasn’t fancy like some that her friends had but it was enough.
Clea did a bit of redecorating herself. My sister had given her a white china tea set which she had to paint herself; it now sits in the wardrobe, all painted and pretty waiting for someone to play. There was some paint left over, so Clea painted the four rooms of the dolls’ house – walls and floors. Orange polka dots cover the floor and walls of the top left room. There are yellow squiggles on the floor and walls of the top right room. The bottom left room has blue squiggles on the floor and blue polka dots on the walls. And the bottom right room has blue circles on the floor and yellow squiggles on the walls.
I remember when she painted it. I saw no harm in it as I placed newspaper beneath the house and over the carpet in her bedroom. She was very careful and didn’t spill any paint. She knew how she wanted her dolls’ house to look.
Now, it sits alone. It is not my dolls’ house. It is Clea’s dolls’ house. There are tiny dolls within and every so often my sons play with them (don’t tell their friends that they do). After they have finished, I place the dolls back on the chairs and the beds, making sure each has somewhere to sit or lie. The dolls wait for someone to play with them. They have been waiting for 130 weeks.
Did you know that 130 weeks adds up to two and a half years?
I have no idea what I will do with the dolls’ house. I am not ready to give it to anyone else. My sons tell me that they are not going to have children – they are only seven years old, what would they know? They do know the pain of losing a child and a sister and that is, maybe, too much for them. They do know about mortality and reality. It is hard to pretend through fairy tales with them.
The dolls’ house sits and it waits. It may sit and wait for another 40 years because it is possible that I may live that long without my daughter – a horrible, painful, but truthful thought. Two and half years seems too long.
I will leave it and, like me, the dolls’ house waits for Clea.