When I was 5 years old, my Mother did something unexpected. She enrolled me in a private Kindergarten class. I say “unexpected” because back in those days (and in that place) Kindergarten was not required and no one had ever heard of the term “preschool”. Children simply entered first grade when they turned 6, hopefully graduated when they turned 18 and then went out and got a job. Life was much simpler then.
The thing I remember most about that Kindergarten class is the dollhouse that stood -taller than me- at the back of the room. From the first moment I saw it, I coveted it! I would stand for long periods looking inside those rooms- wishing I was small enough to live in that little house. But, of course, I didn’t know the magic words to make that happen. (I knew about fairies and magic from stories my Mother read to us.)
I especially liked The Borrowers by Mary Norton, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham and The Dolls House by Rumer Godden. I liked the idea that teeny people and tiny animals could be hiding amongst us (just living in cozy wee houses and going about their business) and we never knew!
Oh, if only I could be small enough to sleep in a bed made out of a matchbox like Arrietty!
Or, ride down the river in a little boat with a water rat and have a picnic like mole!
I shot secret glances at the dolls in the dollhouse to see if they moved (like Godden’s “Tottie”) when they thought we weren’t looking, but they never did.
I got a dollhouse that Christmas from Santa and although I was happy enough playing with it, it wasn’t “REAL”. It was made out of tin with rugs and curtains painted on it and all the furniture was made out of pink plastic. I knew no small person or talking animal would ever really want to live in it. It was a toy.
To remedy this problem, I stayed busy over the next five years or so making secret outdoor houses out of twigs and leaves for any stray fairy or borrower who might need a home. I got pretty good at it. I made them in the woods where we went camping, next to steams, and always next to any tree with a hole at its base (after speaking into the hole first in case it was already occupied, of course!)
Noticing my obsession, my Aunt Eppie (who was patient and understood kids) showed me how to make tiny furniture from wooden spools, flat rocks and empty cocoa cans – and how to decorate with tin foil and bits of ribbon and cut-up magazine pages. From Peggy, a neighbor girl who babysat us, I learned how to make a doll out of twigs, leaves and flowers – which I would occasionally place inside of one of my houses as bait. Alas, the houses remained unoccupied and so eventually I grew up and abandoned the effort.
Then a couple of weeks ago, I was in the garden behind our Children’s Department watering the plants and I noticed something surprising !
It only took me fifty years to stumble upon one in its natural state! There was no one home, however, and later I understood why.
Maybe this is the reason they are so rare?