Saturday, March 31, 2012

James' Dollhouse

In the children's section of the book store where I work stands a beautiful wooden dollhouse. It is painted apple green with window shutters of white. Its six rooms boast simply fashioned wood furniture and appliances. Its inhabitants; doll Mama, doll Daddy, doll Girl and doll Boy, reside within in its walls in poses placed by the many little hands which visit the book store everyday. Sometimes they are joined by a litany of small plastic sculpted animals borrowed from a nearby shelf. This dollhouse is on display, an enticement for its more pristine neighbours who wait in boxes for flesh and blood families of their own.

The children's area of my book store is a place of enchantment. Shelves filled with books of every description, spaces to lie on your belly and read, or to cuddle and be read to, and wonderful toys; some to look at and dream, some to play with and discover.

As I work almost exclusively in this section, I have come to know several children and their parents quite well. For the past few months weekly visits by a little boy named James and his mother have become pilgrimages to the dollhouse. James, nearly four, is an endearing, quirky little guy with unruly dark blonde hair and animated features. Other children play with the dollhouse intermittently as other attractions beckon them, but he spends his entire hour on his knees in front of it, engaged in an elaborate play of his own creation. One day doll Girl is banished to the roof for being naughty, two plastic penguins visit the kitchen and entertain doll Boy, doll Mama sings as she dances around the livingroom, and doll Daddy emits a series of rich burps as he jumps from the diningroom chairs. James' mother is somewhat embarrassed by this and gently admonishes him.

At the end of each visit, James always asks the same question, "Can I have my dollhouse for my birthday?" I notice that he always uses the word 'my' when he refers to it. Clearly, despite often the presence of other children, a sense of belonging dwells in his heart.

One morning his mother tells me that James will soon be four and she's mentioned the dollhouse to his father, who is not very keen on the idea.

It is a rainy day and the store is quiet, when I am approached by a man I have never seen before. He asks to see the dollhouse. He examines it with his hands as well as his eyes, smoothing the wood with workworn hands.

"It's well made", he says, but I discern a note of reluctance. "My son wants nothing else for his birthday." There is a rueful smile.

"Oh, you must be James' father", I say eagerly.

He is surprized and I tell him how much James loves the dollhouse and the wonderful, creative play which fills and engages his little being.

"I wanted to get him a train set or some lego", he says. He stands for a few moments, lips compressed, heart and brain bespoken in a silent duel.

"Okay," he says. "I'll take it."

I smile widely as he hefts the large box into his arms. "James will be so happy!", I tell him.

"Yeah", he says, and grins. "That's the main thing."

The sweetness of that moment both nourishes and elates me. In the infinite abyss of love's hunger sometimes the greatest gift of all is simply to acquiesce.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad that the father did the right thing. I'm sure it was the idea of a "doll" house that the father was having difficulty with, but there's nothing wrong with any toy that appeals to a child's imagination and allows him or her to work through lots of scenarios.