Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Dollhouse Town

I lived in a neighborhood that was all boys. I didn’t play much with dolls growing up. I never had a dollhouse either. Though they always interested me, I couldn’t imagine actually playing with one. I’d enjoy going to the Art Institute in Chicago to see the elaborate room of tiny furniture. I was fascinated by the exquisite dollhouse at the end of the exhibit, but it was art not a toy—not even for dreaming about. A dollhouse was just . . . well, just too miniature. I’ve always been a top down, big-picture thinker. The world was my dollhouse, I think.

Every summer I visited a place that was a real-live dollhouse town to me. Only 1100 people lived there. The streets were wide. The lots were large. So were the houses. The cars hardly ever moved. You could walk from one side of town to the other. There were no curbs or street lights, but there was a bowling alley with six lanes, a grocery story with one register, a bank with two tellers. two churches, a grade school, and a funeral home, and lots of trees. My grandma's house had a whole apple orchard. It was small, but you would call it an orchard too I bet.

I would spend weeks with my Italian Aunt Mary, my father’s sister. Her sons were grown and gone. So she had room for me. She was the youngest and the only daughter. I was too. She cooked wonderful Italian food and served it on genuine Fiestaware. How I loved that Fiestaware, especially the pitcher that looked like the original Kool-Aid guy. It was heavy so I never worried that I would break it and it came in colors that looked like toys. I would take the bowls to the park and fill them up with sand in that dollhouse town, where I was the doll and my Aunt was the doll mother.

My Aunt Mary’s house was chocolate stucco with blown-on cut-glass overlaid that made it sparkle. The town was so roomy. You could see that house sparkle from every side at almost any time of day, even when it was raining out. No dollhouse could do that. On the inside, it was cozy there. She’d let me make my bed on the couch at night. She and Uncle Paul would watch TV while I fell asleep. I liked that part a lot, too.

When I was old enough, my summer dollhouse friends and I would walk downtown to Torri’s Ice-Cream Parlor. It’s a genuine ice-cream parlor with wrought-iron chairs and a long fountain counter. Way in the back over the doorway to the hall is a mirror that my dad made. It isn’t very big, but it fit the molding perfectly. I think was a gift for Mr. Torri. No one ever told me why. I just knew it was there for everyone to see.

Mr. Torri served cherry phosphates, and milkshakes, and made sundaes to order. We could shoose from the sign that was way up there hand-painted right on the wall over the mirror behind the counter. On the other side of the room, he had a whole case of penny candy, which today probably would cost a quarter and come in bars. But then . . . but then it was a penny a piece. We could spend hours deciding exactly how many red-hot-to-black giant jawbreakers we wanted, and how many of each other kind of candy. Mr. Torri didn’t mind. He wasn't going anywhere.

There was no stress and no busy-ness in the dollhouse town. It was real—not perfect like The Truman Show or a fake Walgreen’s Commercial. We would walk out of Torri’s Ice Cream Parlor sucking on our giant jawbreakers, taking them out every minute to see whether they were red or black while we walked down the middle of the street all six blocks back to Aunt Mary’s sparkly stucco house.

Every now and then I drive there on the spur of the moment. I take friends to show them my dollhouse town and my Aunt Mary’s sparkly stucco house. We have hot fudge sundae and cherry phosphates at Torri’s Ice-Cream Parlor. I point out the mirror over the doorway that my dad made as a gift, I think, for Mr. Torri.

And as we drive away, I tell them about my Aunt Mary’s Fiestaware that looked like the original Kool-Aid man.
—me strauss Letting me be


mergrl said...

I just love when you share these memories with us, I feel like I am right there with you (hugs)

ME Strauss said...

Hello Mergrl,
Did I tell you that the Fiestaware pitcher reminded me of the KoolAid guy? Grin. glad you liked the story. Maybe someday we'll get to go there and I can show you round Torri's Ice-Cream Parlor.

Tanda said...

"The world was my dollhouse, I think".

What a great visual!

ME Strauss said...

Hi Tanda,
I think that the world would be anything you wanted it to be. You seem to have the world on a string for you--those boys especially.

Doug said...

So, memory lane is this way?

ME Strauss said...

Hi Doug,
You want to come a long? I thought folks might like a change of pace and I was hungry for a red hot jawbreaker.

toadman said...

I'll need to start writing more memories, before they're lost. My memory is already hazy enough as it is, for other reasons than age...

Lovely post Liz.. thanks for the memories...

ME Strauss said...

Hi Tim,
Every day I'm thankful for this blog. It erases one more day that I told myself that I would write something down so that my son would have it. Now I know he will.
Do it, Tim. Each day you do, you'll feel stronger for it.

Cheryl said...

I love that stuff, its not in the UK, here the dolls house stuff was cream with thick blue stripes, I forget the name.

Thought you might like to treat your inner child, here:


ME Strauss said...

Hey Cheryl,
Good to see you!
Happy New Year!
Hope the holidays brought you everything that you wished for and that the new you is wonderful and filled with gifts and great happenings.

Helen said...

What a wonderful memory to have and share.
Happy New Year to you!

ME Strauss said...

Thank you, Helen.
Happy New Year! May you have wonderful things happen to you all of the next 12 months on into forever!

Rain said...

oh I adore fiesta ware. I remember enjoying falling asleep while someone watched TV. Now it would keep me awake! Thanks for sharing the memories.

ME Strauss said...

Your comment just put the grandest smile on my face. I feel so good that you enjoyed this read.