A good friend of mine just e-mailed me, excited about the dollhouse she found at a neighbor’s garage sale. “My Mom never let me have a dollhouse and I always wanted one,” she wrote. “I can’t wait to display it.”
Her daughter is 18 years old.
I don’t remember yearning for a dollhouse as a child, nor even wanting dolls. My single doll was a Raggedy Ann my mother had made. I do remember envying my cousin’s Barbie dolls, but being satisfied with her cast-offs, even with the chewed fingers or the shortened haircuts. What I do remember wanting is books. The want and lust was very real. One of the very first things I bought with my babysitting money was a paperback book out of the Scholastic catalog our 7th grade teacher passed out. It seemed to me that one must be very rich to own books, and now I am surrounded by books, so I must be very rich indeed.
But toys? Other than a Superball I ordered from Cheerios and some paper dolls, I don’t really remember toys being all that important in my life as a child. Instead, I was surrounded by siblings with vivid imaginations and when we weren’t busy reading books from the library, we made our own entertainment.
When I read my friend’s e-mail I couldn’t think of anything I wanted for my children that I didn’t have for myself. But then, I turned my chair around, and there it was; the kitchen set I’d gotten Abby last year for Christmas. As a child I would have thought this was the most wonderful gift in the world. As an adult, I still want to play with it. I looked everywhere for one of these for years and the prices were always over $100, sometimes $150 or more. $150 for a toy, a price beyond my imagination. But last year Amazon held some amazing toy sales in late November and early December and when this set went down to 50% off with free shipping, well, I couldn’t resist. I knew Melissa & Doug made quality wooden toys and it would last a long time.
Abby woke up late last Christmas, when everyone had already opened their gifts, and she stood next to me in front of this set Michael had put together ahead of time. We covered it with a large decorated “sheet” designed to hide large presents. When I told her that the big gift underneath was for her, her eyes widened. She pulled off the sheet and grabbed me around the waist and hid her face. At first I thought she didn’t like it, but later she told me it was just too wonderful to look at.
That kitchen set has seen a lot of play in the last year, and yes, I did buy it with visions of years of play ahead for Abby and my grandchildren, but I wonder if there was a little more to this purchase. And then I understand why my friend bought the dollhouse.
Because some toys are just too wonderful to look at. And those are the very best toys to have. Because when we see them, we are transported back to our childhood selves. And my childhood self would have LOVED this kitchen set.