My first dollhouse in America wasn't made out of wood and it didn't resemble a Country Estate or a Victorian mansion or even a Disney Castle. No, my first dollhouse was made out of a cardboard box wrapped in wrapping paper with construction paper doors and aluminum foil windows and origami birds on the roof and snails on the side of the house.
And my first dollhouse wasn't for Barbie and her friends. I didn't even have a Barbie let alone any of her friends. No, my first dollhouse was home to four clothespin dolls with glued on outfits and drawn on marker faces. Which meant my clothespin dolls didn't have fancy pink cars or removable shoes or the dozens of outfits that I could change them into to. Heck, my clothespin dolls didn't even have an outfit that could be removed.
We didn't get any of the fancy toys we saw on the many millions of commercials that hypnotized us from dawn to dusk because we were poor. Very poor. Came from Kenya with two children, two trunks and none of her twelve-years at IBM money to live on in her mother's house and try and rebuild a life poor.
Now, when you're expecting a Barbie and friends and pink beach castle and a plethora of other shiny things, a cardboard house with clothespin people is quite a bit of a letdown. But so is finding out years later that your father was using you as a bargaining tool and threatening to kidnap you and stash you in an orphanage until your mother did what he told her because rearranging her face didn’t work. That the hush-hush, “Bring only what you can pack in one bag” trip out of the country to live in America suddenly made sense.
I did not know that when I got cardboard dollhouse. I just knew, like the un-afro, un-accented kid surrounding us, that it was 'different' like me. And because the un-afro, unaccented kids let me know that 'different' was not good, a cardboard dollhouse was not good. And clothespin dolls were definitely not good either. And because they were 'different' and not good, I wasn’t very nice to Mom when she gave me the dollhouse.
There have been lots of not very nice to Mom moments over my years but this weekend when we found Cardboard Dollhouse, I remembered that one. And I after I apologized for being a shit, I took a moment to thank her. Because of her, I can look at a cardboard box and see a house or stove or UPS truck. Because of her, I have a backbone and innate frugality and a sense of humor that finds a snail on the side of a cardboard house amusing and absolutely necessary.
And sadly, because of her, I still have damn Cardboard Dollhouse because who can throw out a memory of a love like that?
Husband, make room, I’m bringing home a lifetime of memories. And you get to hold me while I pack them away.
My name is ej. I'm a girl. I say that because with the short hair and the short initials, folks aren't always sure. More brilliant insights to who I am in About me