Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Dollhouse

Once upon a time, there was a man. He was very old, and very poor, and consequently very dirty. Dirty because he was poor, not because he was old, that is. His hair was mostly gray, and somewhat thin, and he had many wrinkles. He had these wrinkles not because he was poor and full of worries, but because he was old, and he had smiled and laughed very often in his many years.

The reason for his many smiles was that he had a daughter. She was very little, and very dirty, both because she was young and because she too was poor. She did not mind. She had a bright and curly yellow hair and a face that beamed like the sun on the first golden day of April. She did not have many toys, because she was poor, but her old father gave her everything she could want, and she was very thankful. She had a mopey old dog who did not mind when she rode on his back like the Lord riding into Jerusalem, or when she dressed him in her Sunday best. She had a bicycle that she was rather afraid of, and many books, full of pictures of ponies and princesses and castles and other delightful things.

But her favorite toy was the one thing that she owned that no other little girl anywhere in the world owned. It was a dollhouse. The reason that no one else in the world had one was because no other little girl had a father like hers. He had made this dollhouse with his own hands, just for her. It stood as tall as she did, with three stories and eight rooms and a kitchen and a yard with real grass. It was a log cabin, like their own house, except this one didn't look like any poor people lived there. This dollhouse was the home of a successful and happy family, with many doll children and animals, and a great oaken table where they all sat and dined (including the animals). It was full of the most delightful decorations, like a grandfather clock that really worked (it didn't even need winding, and made a real chime!) and little candles that burned with a tiny flame when supper was on, and a full set of fancy silverware, made of real silver. If any other little girl would have had this dollhouse, she would have said that it was a magic dollhouse, but this little girl did not know about magic, but only about her father. She was very happy. The baby dolls and animals must have been very happy as well, for they were served many abundant feasts at the hand of their beaming mistress, who imagined her grown up life providing such splendor for her own children.

So it went with this dirty little girl, all the years of her little life. Her father gave her chores to do, but they were not toilsome, and many of them were useful and beautiful things that she loved to do, like setting the table or folding the laundry. She had very few rules to obey- obey adults, feed the dog, and put the dolls away at bedtime. These things took up very little time, and so she was free to play at dolls as much as any little girl would want.

But before long, her old father took ill. This is to be expected in our world, especially with very old men. The little girl did not understand this, because he had never been ill before, and she had never been ill, and neither had any of the dolls in her house. He did not get up for many days, but instead called to his daughter for his meager supper, until he stopped eating altogether. Then one day he called her to his side and told her that he loved her and wished her the very best and may her sunbeams never go out, and that he was being gathered to his people. Then he smiled at her and put his hand on her head and he died. She cried for many days.

Now because that old man was very poor, and because the friends and brothers of the very poor abandon them, there was no relative to take care of his little daughter. So, one day a strange man came and took the little girl, with all her things (the mopey dog and the books, and of course the dollhouse), and took her to a new house. He said that it was his job to make sure that orphans were looked after, and that he was going to be her new daddy. Things were going to change he said, because she had wasted so much time. She was going to have new rules and chores (there were very many of these, more than she could remember) and she was now going to go to school instead of playing with dolls. This was for her good, he explained, so that she could go to a good college. Of course, she did not like the rules or the chores very much, and she did not like school at all. But she did as she was told, because she was a good little girl.

One day she came home and ran to her room, as she was wont to do. It was not nice to be around her new daddy, for he did not smile often (he had no wrinkles, and his hair was not gray), but he talked very often and very loudly and his talk made very little sense. Well, on this particular day she ran to her room, threw off her coat and knelt down to serve supper to her dolls.

To her absolute horror, her dollhouse was gone. Rather, it was not gone, but changed, reconfigured, destroyed! The beautiful logs were replaced with a blank white on the inside and a shiny gray on the outside. Where there used to be walls decorated with happy pictures and windows there were now awful white partitions that were low enough to look over, with papers tacked to them covered with words like “annuity” and “strategy” and “policy” which terrified her. Gone was the grandfather clock, and in its place a horrible black thing with bright red blinking digits that made a buzz on the hour. Gone was the silverware, replaced with little calculators pencils and more papers. And gone too was the giant oaken table. Her dolls were seated in desks, heads bent over.

This was too awful. She buried her face in her hands and turned away, just to find her new daddy sitting behind her.

“Now honey, do not cry. Why do you not like what I have done with your dollhouse?”

“Because it's so awful! Where did my house go?” she cried.

“Oh, do be sensible. Your dollhouse is right here. Are not all your dolls here? I have simply made your dollhouse a little more realistic, so that you may learn more about what the real world is like.”

“But it is awful!”, she said. “I want my things back!”

“Look here, my girl. I have taken away your table and the grandfather clock and your old walls because I love you and I want you to grow up proper. You see, we do not sit at an oaken table in our family, because I do not always get home from work in time for supper. We do not have babies or animals, because it would put a strain on our careers and finances. You see, once upon a time little girls had nothing more to look forward to than endless cooking and cleaning and slaving away in the house. But now you have so many possibilities that you must learn to dream big. This is the modern world, where dreams that you have never even thought of dreaming will come true. That is why I have turned your dollhouse into an office- because this is your future, the glorious life that you have to look forward to. Now go do your homework.”

Now because the little girl had been taught (by her poor dead father, not by her teacher) to always do what she was told, she went and did her homework and did not play with her dolls any more that day. In fact, she never played with them again. And she went back to school the next day, and for the years to come. And soon she grew up, and when she turned fourteen she suddenly stopped being a little girl and turned into a big girl. And she promptly got pregnant by her boyfriend and was sent away, never to be heard from again.

1 comment:

  1. That's a very good story Matt... scorching actually!