Monday, March 30, 2009

The Economy Takes Its Toll on the Dollhouse

I keep a small dollhouse at the foot of my desk so that two little people can play there and interrupt my work and drive me to distraction. One day, I'll move it. Or, more likely, they'll soon be too big to crawl under there and play dollhouse. But for now, it is where it is.

This is a simple wooden frame house with no staircase, no light fixtures, no anything, really. Santa delivered it two years ago, and it is a bare-bones dollhouse, just like the ones you might see at Michael's for 19.99 around the holiday season. Some say this particular dollhouse is intended to be a bookshelf or storage unit of some sort. The rooms are divided, and there's a pitched roof. Santa and I say it's a dollhouse. And so do the two little girls who, with the help of their older sister, painted the interiors, made their own furniture from empty cardboard boxes that once contained bar soap, cream cheese or lip gloss. They made quilts from felt scraps and tiny books from tiny pieces of cardboard. They've made it a real showplace.

And lest you think the residents of this dollhouse are roughing it because they sleep on kitchen trash, watch TV mini-series broadcast from a discarded matchbox and have lawn ornaments made from Tinker Toys, know that this family is just happy to wake up each morning. The grandmother had half her head chewed off by a Welsh Corgi about 100 times her size. With no money for plastic surgery and other corrective measures, she just wanders through the house on one leg and half her head. One of the little girls is MIA, and nobody seems to remember what she looked like. So the search and rescue efforts were called off. For a brief time, a Polly doll played substitute sister, like when Sarah Chalke suddenly appeared as Becky on Roseanne, and nobody was supposed to notice. Eventually, though, the substitute move was abandoned, and the family seemed to move on with things. One less mouth to feed.

This dollhouse family has, no doubt, fallen on hard times through the years. The latest scenarios seem to indicate that the family has taken a real beating from this economy. A word-for-word transcript (they don't know I'm eavesdropping on this Saturday afternoon):

"My girl is a student because she can't get a job."

"My girl is so poor, she has only two dresses."

"That is so sad."

After 10 minutes of beating the economic downturn storyline to death, conversation turned to this:

"Your girl wasn't downstairs when the car was leaving, so she has to walk to school." (Hard to get downstairs without steps, don't you think?)

"OK, this is kind of confusing. So my girl missed the car?"

"Yep, she's walking."

"Where is the school?"

"Two miles away."

The pink convertible Polly car flees from the residence at top speed.

"Hey, my girl can't run that fast! Make the car slow down!"

"Eight hours later ..."

"They're already going back home?"

"Sorry."

"OK, now pretend the girls are already home."

"My girl has been out for, like, 10 hours."

"My girl is eating at Starbucks."

Laughter.

"You can eat at Starbucks, you know. Like, cakes."

"True."

"My girl fell asleep on her bed."

Lots of sighing here. Signs of frustration. I'm anticipating something is about to be thrown against the wall.

"You need to make the days more exciting. Make it ... summer. Let's take advantage of summer."

"Can I borrow one of the extra dresses? Maybe an extra outfit?"

"WAIT! That wasn't even a real day! That day was so boring! We need some actual action from summer days! Seriously."

"You want more action?"

"But not too much."

"I'm jumping off the roof! I'm jumping off the roof! Concussion! Concussion!"

. . . And this is why the dollhouse is under my desk and not upstairs in a bedroom.