a breakfast serial

One bite-sized story every morning to uplift, motivate, or provoke thought.

Santa’s got nothing on Jackie

Amy and Barbie

< by Amy Beth >

Though the moment I received my most memorable gift exists faintly in my memory, the years I spent loving it are very clear. The year was 1991; I was four years old. It was from my mom: a place for my beloved collection of more-than-loved Barbie dolls to live.

She made the dollhouse herself, using modular wooden closet accessories purchased at a lumber and hardware store. On top of a functional drawer, where Barbie would ultimately store her fabulous collection of clothing and accessories, my mom nailed two cubes together, the first floor, which served as the dining room and sitting room. The second story was one large luxurious bedroom, and on the top — a balcony constructed of fancily carved spindles. Barbie and Ken had many a romantic night here, but they don’t kiss and tell.

My mom painted the exterior white, wallpapered the inside walls and cut curtains from a floral Laura Ashley-like fabric, and using fleece fabric squares, cut enough for plush wall-to-wall carpeting. The only piece of the dollhouse she actually purchased was from a miniature dollhouse store: the retro dining-room fixture. The dollhouse took her six weeks to complete, working late at night as I slept upstairs.

That Christmas Eve in 1991, also my mom’s birthday, she and my dad returned from a party around 1 a.m., slightly tipsy but ready to assist Santa as we slept. After organizing the wrapped gifts under the tree, they went to lift the dollhouse — and couldn’t move it at all. My mom remembers looking next door to see if the neighbors, also good friends, were awake. After seeing a light on, she called for help. But the neighbor, Mr. Clapp, was smashed, even more so than my own parents. Mr. Clapp and my dad struggled to carry the house up the stairs, as my mom assisted with steering. They were laughing uncontrollably. “I don’t know how you kids didn’t wake up,” she says.

After Christmas, the house moved to the basement in a closet under the stairs: I so cleverly called it the Barbie Closet. It sat atop a wood pallet covered with fluffy pink carpeting, much like the floors of the dollhouse itself. Barbie’s sartorial collection, along with her Ferrari, horse, and many friends, lived here too. I so clearly remember the posters of my ’90s crushes, Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Devon Sawa, hanging on the walls. It was a little girl’s perfect escape from machine-gun-wielding, G.I. Joe-impersonating brothers. I used to sit there for hours, talking to Barbie, planning her wedding, talking out fights with Ken, dreaming up her lovely life. Ah, what a lovely life indeed.

2 Comments»

  Jorie wrote @

This is the cutest, Amy. (That picture, omg.) I knew Jackie was handy but I had no idea HOW handy! I think you’ve already told me that you saved it for your kiddos someday. What a treasure.

  magnate88 wrote @

I used to pop Ken’s head off. My older sister didn’t let me play with her much …


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