Sunday, June 13, 2021

Life & Style

A Tale of Two Dollhouses

The best Christmas present I ever got was a dollhouse. It was the same height as I was and built by my mother. I remember opening the wide doors as a seven-year-old and not fully comprehending what this gigantic rectangular being was until I saw dolls and their tiny furniture inside. I could barely breathe, much less speak. I played with it every day, even after I should have been more into clothes and boys.

Years and years later, Mom and I are in an antique shop that we both love. It’s Christmastime and we’re doing our annual holiday shopping trek. I’m browsing on the opposite side of the aisle from Mom and when I turn around I see that she’s standing completely still. Her hands are up to her face and her eyes are teary.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

Mom’s mind is whip smart. She’s not prone to old-person moments of senility, so to see this is a bit of a shock.

“That’s my dollhouse,” she says.

Now I get it. There are things that can send you on an emotional time warp right back to when you were a child. It’s not always expected and sometimes when it happens it completely takes you over. She hasn’t seen this dollhouse since it was tossed out long ago without warning. It’s like running into a long-lost friend.

We leave the shop and go our separate ways home. The next day I hop in my car and go back. Is the shop open on Sundays? Do I bother to check online for that? Nope. Do I bother to call and see if the dollhouse is even still there? Nope. What time does the shop open? Didn’t check that, either. I have my mission and that’s that. The shop is open, the house is there, and I soon have it in my car.

A week later Mom says she went back to the shop to “visit” her dollhouse. When she tells me it’s gone I say, “Oh wow, really? I’m sorry you didn’t get to visit it.”

“That’s okay. It’s better at someone’s house than in a shop.”

“Yeah, it is.”

“I don’t have room for it, anyway.”

“No. It was awfully cute, but yeah, it would have taken up room and where would you even put it?”

Give me an Emmy now, please.

On Christmas Day I give her a small present that I’d gotten and then say I have something else for her. I look under the tree as if that’s where the something else would be located. The dollhouse never would have fit under there.

“Hmmmm. What did I do with that other present? I’m such an idiot. I hope I didn’t leave it at home.”

“It’s okay,” says Mom. “Give it to me later when you find it.”

“It probably just fell out of the bag. I bet it’s in my car.”

“It’s icy out there,” she says as I’m pulling on my boots. “Wait until later.”

“No, it’s going to drive me nuts until I take a look. I’ll check real quickly,” I say with a nonchalant shrug.

Oscar for me, please.

I go to the car where the house is wrapped in a blanket in the trunk. The trunk refuses to open. An ice storm overnight has caused the whole thing to freeze shut. I swear softly into the festively frigid air. Yanking repeatedly isn’t working. The door still won’t budge. What now? And what a sight am I in my jammies and boots, tugging and cussing on Christmas morn?

I give one final pull and the trunk finally pops. I gently remove the dollhouse. Gingerly I shuffle to the door, hoping I won’t slip on the ice. I have to turn sideways to get the house through the door. When I enter the living room, Mom cries out when she sees it. There are more happy tears, this time from both of us.

“Sorry I didn’t wrap it,” I tell her and we both laugh.

The best Christmas present I ever got was a dollhouse. Turns out the best Christmas present I ever gave was also a dollhouse.

Juliana Gribbins is a writer who believes that absurdity is the spice of life. Her book Date Expectations is winner of the 2017 Independent Press Awards, Humor Category and winner of the 2016 IPPY silver medal for humor. Write to her at Read more of her columns at

Juliana Gribbins is the Columnist for Zip06. Email Juliana at .

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