Friday, July 23, 2010

The tale of a dollhouse

It all started 30 years ago when we lived in Bolivia (a great place to raise kids). For Christmas one year we decided to make a dollhouse for Kristin. Hal designed a three-story-plus-attic house, then build it out of wood over a period of several months, using a friend’s shop. We painted it in vibrant primary colors—reds, blues and yellows—partly to match our daughter’s personality.

Kristin was thoroughly surprised and delighted. We furnished it together with stuff from the local miniature fair (“Alasitas”) and with handmade items such as the tuna can coffee table and the matchbox dresser. It brought years of fun and creativity, and when we left Bolivia, Kristin, sixteen-years-old, hated to have to sell it.

Ten years ago on a December visit to our son and his family in Rwanda, David said, “Dad, could you build Breanna a dollhouse for Christmas? Just like Kristin’s?” We agreed, and Hal set to work in David’s garage. We had three weeks to do the job and no place to hide. Breanna, five, and Aren, four, were fascinated, and Hal found ways to let them help him, always evading their questions as to what this interesting thing was supposed to become. We did the final assembly and painting Christmas Eve, after the kids were in bed. I’m still amazed that we managed to surprise Breanna on Christmas morning. All three of David’s daughters have enjoyed that dollhouse.

Yesterday we celebrated Paige’s fifth birthday with—what else?—a dollhouse. A year ago Kristin had said, “Dad, it’s our turn. Could you please build Paige a dollhouse? Just like mine?”

For the past several months, we’ve dedicated Saturday afternoons to the project. Hal used wood from the baseboards that were taken from his Grandpa Weesner’s house when it was remodeled to become a George Fox University dorm. (Grandpa Weesner would be Paige’s great-great-grandfather.) The last two weeks, the birthday deadline pushed us to spend more time in the garage. But it’s been a joy—a relief to Hal from the academic intensity of his job, fun for me as I’ve sanded and painted, imagining Paige’s delight and praying for her.

I think this one is Hal’s magnum opus. It’s beautiful. (See the following photos.) The night before the birthday Hal stayed up until 3:30 doing the final assembly and touch-up painting. The morning of the birthday we ran into a snafu as we discovered the thing would not fit into our car. (We had been imagining it fitting, but somehow neglected to take measurements. Go figure.) We live 1 ½ hours from Jon and Kristin’s home, so we had to scramble to borrow a van, but we made it a good hour before the party (missing lunch, however).

That was yesterday. Different extended family members had volunteered to furnish different rooms. (Kristin is organized!) Paige opened her first gift, a set of bathroom furniture. She lifted up the little wooden potty, looked quizzically at her mom and said, “This wasn’t on my list.” The following packages revealed more furniture, and finally she opened the box with the wooden family—parents, three kids, grandparents, just like her family. But she still didn’t get it. We then told her to go to her room for her final present. The dollhouse was waiting for her. It was great to see her look of surprise and the dawning understanding as all the parts and pieces came together in her mind. The rest of the afternoon we all arranged and rearranged furniture, built what was missing from Legos, and played.

We feel satisfaction at the completion of a big project, a job well done, a gift that will continue to bless our granddaughter, and add another chapter to our family story. Maybe someday Paige’s daughter will play with a dollhouse built with wood from her great-great-great-grandpa’s house!

Alandra and Gwen with the Rwandan dollhouse.

Beginning work on Paige's dollhouse

A labor of love

Ready to deliver

Paige Rebecca Gault at 5

Life is good.


  1. I'm moved to tears! I experienced this unfolding story from generation to generation and ached for the many who never know such roots and belonging; such sacrificial love and creativity, such beauty and warm physical love. I'm so glad I know you and Hal and have been introduced to your family. Thank you for writing about this. Love, Mary

  2. One of my all-time favorite posts!!