Which is the same as this one:
That's me in the heart-shaped deely-boppers, behind my little sister. It was my 13th birthday, and that was my new dollhouse. Dollhouses weren't the coolest thing in eighth grade, but that didn't stop me. I liked to build worlds, even if I didn't know that's what I was doing.
There were no Minecraft, no MMORPGs. Some kids had 12-sided die; I had an X-acto knife and embroidery floss. I used it to recreate my Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Witch of Blackbird Pond dreams (all historical periods mingled in a Mercer Museum fever dream.Here's one of the bedrooms, with a patchwork quilt, cross-stitched pillow, and miniature acrylic self-portrait.Age 14 was more of a no man's land then than now, so the book was probably Charles Dickens or Charlotte Bronte. But reading and miniature making were sides of the same coin -- immersion and construction of imaginary worlds.
Writing, whether fantasy, history, or contemporary, requires building the world from the ground up -- and often from the ground down too. Whether a world is faithfully reproduced or entirely invented, the writer must construct it on the page.
I constructed my dollhouse out of scrap calico and wood. I populated it with costumed fur mice, which didn't seem ghoulish at the time but definitely were when I took them out of the non-archival storage of our garden shed. Generations of live mice had scurried through those open-sided walls. My mouse house had become real with time, like the Skin Horse in the Velveteen Rabbit. Like the stories I wrote and bound myself that turned into other stories, and still others that are real books and books-to-be.
So this weekend I cleaned out the mouse droppings and washed the linens. Salvaged broken furniture and paged through the mini newspapers and magazines I had made, complete with crime reports and cigarette ads. (The past was no paradise.)
And now the dollhouse belongs to my daughters to rebuild, redecorate, and repopulate with their own imaginations. I do have a few ideas for hardwood floors and curtains, and I may have time to squeeze them in between drafts. Worlds must be built.