I have always loved doll houses, even paper doll houses. What I love about them is that I get to decorate them any way I want, and there is no one to argue with me and there is no problem about cost. I just make or sculpt the furniture, paint the walls, create the pictures, sew the curtains. I did this as a child, creating shoe box houses for my troll dolls, and I did this recently as an adult, only this time I had quite a bit more help. When I was recuperating from my bone marrow transplant, and couldn’t do too much, I asked my daughter to make me a cardboard doll house, any shape she wanted. She made a fantastic house from boxes she cut up, painted it with white jesso, and brought it to me on the bus from her house. It was a great joy for me to have it on the tray table next to my couch, and take my time, painting it with my acrylic paints, decorating it with the mandalas I had colored during my many chemo treatments, and filing it with furniture I have managed to find over the years and used for my kids at home as well as my classroom kids. My partner’s daughter graciously sculpted food for me, and then my daughter joined in again and made bathroom fixtures out of sculpy. I sewed cushions, curtains from my collection of handkerchiefs, and filled it with paperdolls and trolls, and felt as though I’d made a wonderful world in which I’d love to live, which was the same way I always felt when I played with dolls and dollhouses as a kid.
At the same time I was working on this, I was having the joy of being able to plan the improvements on our new little house in Trail’s End. My partner doesn’t have much interest in thinking about this, and it gives me something to dream about, it gives me a future. I have lived in many places, and always loved to plan the decoration and furniture, occasionally adding on features, and always painting (I love color). But cost was always a factor, even if energy and ambition weren’t. Now it is different, we have some amount of money to get it fixed up, but I’m not there often, and can’t do the painting and physical work that I formerly did.
So I plan from afar, to make this home, our last one on this earth, exactly right. It is such a small house, only 4 rooms not including the bathroom, that I knew I had to maximize space. Sarita and I have simple tastes and a simple style of living, but because we are both into our projects, we have a lot of “stuff” that we need to be able to get to. (Tubs of yarn, fiber, material, spinning wheels and looms, sewing machines and drafting tables, etc.) So first thing, we added on a porch, where we can read, knit and spin, and watch the sun set. Then we decided that because we need a whole room for a project studio, we have to make the detached garage into a spare bedroom, a place where visiting folks can stay and have their own space. I’ve bought and brought furniture and furnishings, carefully planning where each should go, to keep the clutter factor in some control (a constant and ongoing process for me). We’ve had it all painted, bright greens and turquoises, lavenders and blues, yellows and burnt siennas (my favorite from the Crayola box). I’m learning to make rugs for all the rooms. We’re making it just right for the body I have now, the one that can’t reach very high, can’t bend very low. Large shelves house our very lightweight dishes, the refrigerator has the freezer on the bottom, there is a comfortable couch and rocking chair that are easy on my back. And we’ve loved getting things made by people in the area to use and enjoy, such as a large painting by a local artist, a woven rug by a local woman, and an ironworks decoration to increase the height of our gate (because our border collie can easily jump 6 feet high), made by the local blacksmith. It has cost some money to do all this, but really very little compared to anything we do in California. And that’s also in keeping with the way we live, inexpensively and simply. And best of all, we’ve been lucky enough to make a friend of the wonderful person who has done all this work for us. He gives us many gifts through his work.
I never felt like I had so much control over every aspect of the place I was living before, and it is a constant joy to contemplate and create. I am convinced that it has helped my healing, and that it continues to help, by giving me something to plan for. I absolutely have to be alive in 4 or 5 years because I have to have the opportunity to live there full time! I know how lucky I am, really I do, because this is something I never ever imagined I could have. I am lucky because I have generous parents, a generous partner, and because I’ve just continued to survive and move on after every challenge that came my way. And I am also lucky because I’m lucky, and I am thankful every day for that.