Hubby got me my dollhouse wish

Published 11:48 am Saturday, December 17, 2016


When Brother and I were little kids, Mama and Daddy kept us supplied with toys and other distractions so that they could holler, “Go to your room and play! Don’t make me get up from here!” whenever the tornado of activity that we had created threatened to break a lamp or knock over an expensive vase, or erupt into a sibling knock-down-drag-out.

I had just about everything that a little girl’s heart could possibly desire, but there was one thing that I longed for that Mama just would not consider. I wanted a doll house. Not the cardboard kind available from the toy section at Roses. They were big enough for a little girl to crawl around in if she squinched up, and had pretend window boxes with geraniums beneath the punch-out windows. Mama said I could have one of those, but to me they just looked like painted-up refrigerator boxes.

What I wanted was a genuine, made from an actual kit that came from a special store, reproduction of a stately Victorian home, with doors that were attached with the tiniest hinges possible and the teensiest sink and toilet in the restroom and itty bitty Persian rugs! My friend had one and I loved to play with her thimble-sized pots and pans, and rearrange the correct-to-scale furniture. There were even miniature pictures on the walls!

I begged and begged, but Mama said if I really wanted to play with a house, why didn’t I just go ahead and play with a regulation-sized one, and look, I could even wash real dishes! And it came with a broom and a real live washing machine!

I‘d mentioned my thwarted doll house dreams to Hubby, and he decided to make them come true for our first Christmas…and somehow keep it a secret. He visited a couple of specialty shops in Atlanta, and came home pale and shaky. Those kits were outrageously expensive! The one that matched my childhood fantasies was around $1,200, and that didn’t even include the miniscule furnishings.  In those days, Hubby and I were so poor that Kool Aid was a treat, so it looked like my dreams of owning a beautiful doll house complete with widow’s walk and working chandelier were going to remain unfulfilled.

December rolled around and I started getting odd phone calls at work requesting that I call him before I headed home, maybe even give him an hour’s notice. He was nervous and his eyes darted around the room when I arrived home in the evenings. I started to worry, but all my friends laughed and said it was probably something to do with Santa.

On Christmas Eve, Hubby’s whole family came to our little pauper-approved apartment to help us celebrate. The air fairly crackled with festivity and expectation! I loved the sweater I received from Hubby. But what about all those crazy phone calls?

After all the presents were opened and the oohs and ahhs were done, Hubby said, “Close your eyes, Pepper, and keep them closed no matter what you hear!”

There arose a clatter that rivaled anything Ma in her kerchief and Pa in his cap could have heard on their lawn! Doors slammed, family whispered and the sofa got shoved to one side. There was some very un-Christmasy language. It seemed to go on for an hour or so, but it was probably five minutes later when Hubby said,

“Okay. Open your eyes!”

When I did, there was a huge Victorian doll house on the floor in front of me! It had a widow’s walk, and a lawn, too! There were shutters on the windows and tiles on the roof, a working front door and room for a second bathroom in the attic! It was perfect, better than any of the kits I had seen, but how had he done it?

All those strange phone calls had been so that he had time to clean up saw dust and hide the evidence before I got home and saw that he was building me a doll house. He had no knowledge of carpentry, but he created a work of art for me. We had no money, but on our first Christmas, Hubby gave me the greatest gift I have ever received. The doll house was a dream come true, but the real gift was the knowledge that only a person who truly loved me would spend the time sawing and nailing, and secret-keeping, so that at last a little girl could have just what she’d always wanted.

And I do.


Pepper Ellis Hagebak spends her days framing other people’s art and her nights lost in the beauty of words.