Monday, August 9, 2010

a doll mansion

my great uncle walter passed away in the spring. he retired from the military twice and then took up woodworking. his specialty was dollhouses. not just any dollhouses. elaborate, intricate pieces of craftsmanship like none other. he gifted me one when i was a small child. it came completely outfitted with delicate, completely functional furniture. i loved it dearly, but i was not gentle with it. he said to me in recent years that he gave it to me when i was a bit too young. unfortunately, they are mostly in pieces in a box now. the dollhouse itself is in need of repair. it sits at my mom's house. i so regret not getting it to him to have him do the repairs himself while he was able.

my sister and i have 8 years between us. she didn't get a dollhouse. she has never let me forget it. ;) when we visited uncle walter a couple of years ago, he had his masterpiece sitting on his porch. it had already been sitting there for years. heather (that's my sister) shared with him her sorrow that she never owned one of her very own. he told her she could have that one!
now you must understand that this dollhouse is nearly six feet long and over three feet wide (much larger than mine)! she couldn't exactly fit it in her back seat. time passed and sadly, so did uncle walter. there is a bit of scandal surrounding his estate and affairs so when i was offered the opportunity to drive down to south carolina and pick the dollhouse up for her, i didn't hesitate. it meant completely unbolting the back seats in my suv (yes, i drive one of those, i know) and sacrificing all leg room for the journey home (2&1/2 hours), but we made it work!
i can not imagine the many, many hours he spent on these creations attending to the tiniest of details. he cut each and every tiny shingle.

since we still have no way to get it to her and she really has no where to put it, it lives here for now. uncle walter had had it practically outside for years. it was in the *dog room* but there were two open doors on either side. it was protected by a roof overhead, but not from dirt, dog hair, wind, mice, etc. it was caked with grease and dirt and filled with tiny nails and mouse poop! it is next to matt's car to give an idea of it's size.

though sienna and i spent hours early in the summer cleaning it with scrub brushes and toothbrushes alike, it was still coated in grime. it stayed on our picnic table securely wrapped in tarps until my mom came last week. she shined it up real pretty! thanks mom!
sienna was already in the midst of a room redo. we cleared half of her room so that she could have this beast in there for a while. she could not be happier! the darn thing is so big that she really only uses half of it, if that. her very spoiled dolls now have a complete ballet studio in their new home.
this one came unfurnished. my furniture needs repair and even so it really just isn't suitable for the play of a six year old and her rowdy little brother. so she uses hers as her own (tiny in comparison) dollhouse is taking a break in the attic.

uncle walter modeled this one after a deluxe log home that he and his girlfriend encountered on their travels. he took lots of pictures and went home and recreated it. he obviously did it just to do it because then it just sat there on the porch for many years. he used to enter these into state fairs and win blue ribbons. he loved that women would buy them and deck them out with electricity and everything!

as a child, i loved receiving gifts from my great uncle that he had made with his own hands. it wasn't until much later in my life that i developed such a deep, deep love of all things wooden. i do wish that i could have spent some time with him in his shop and learned some of his trade.
getting this beast into the house was no easy feat! i didn't get any pictures of the next step where we stood it up on end and balanced it on a skateboard to get it around that 90 degree corner into her room at the end of the hallway.
thank you, uncle walter for the endless hours i spent with my own dollhouse and other toys you crafted and for the joyous play you have now brought to my children. with love, rae

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