Dollhouses all have their own backstories

Miniature room
A homemade dollhouse in a store window.

With Christmas just two days away, this dollhouse in a downtown Snohomish antique store reminded me of the joy of setting scenes like this—the stories they tell and the questions they beg.

When I was about 7 my father and my best friend’s father stayed up all Christmas Eve night finishing dollhouses they built for us. We loved those dollhouses, and we heard the stories for years about the efforts they made to have them ready for Christmas morning!

We put furniture and little dolls in the rooms, and then began the narratives: what is the family doing, what’s happening in every room? In just a simple vignette you have a whole world with its own backstory.

This little room in a homemade open dollhouse is a great example. We have a fireplace and interior chimney, painstakingly created from smooth stones to represent river rock, topped with a wooden mantle from which two little stockings hang. A gingerbread house, miniscule in detail, sits on the mantle with miniature Christmas trees and a doll.

The wooden table is set for a holiday meal including roast turkey and ham, with a teddy bear (toy or guest?), seated and waiting to begin. A larger Christmas tree stands in a corner beside an even tinier dollhouse, with a little giftbag nearby.

The story is ours to write. What’s going on? Do toys alone inhabit this room? Or are we waiting for people to arrive for Christmas dinner and a celebration? This particular room, of course, has an additional backstory, just as my dollhouse had, but its is a mystery: who so lovingly created this magical room? For whom? And perhaps more poignant—why is it here, for sale?

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