Monday

Remember my bunny house, and the magical story of the doll houses that my parents built?

Well...here's the original. The first. Hewn from the trunk of a massive pine that fell across our road during one tumultuous, stormy winter's night when I was small. My father cut it into segments in the morning, removed the debris from the road, and hauled the best piece home to his studio. He cut down the branches, sliced off one side, and carved out the insides. He chiseled the stubs of the branched into windows and cut out arched doorways. He built balconies from plywood, and ladders from stained and sanded scrap.
Mike and I hauled it down from my mother's pristine attic, where it has nestled among the stacks that store both my parents' paintings from over the decades. She brought down two neatly labeled boxes of doll house furniture and, much the worse for wear but still achingly beautiful (more on that in a later post) the miniature dolls that originally inhabited it. In place of some of the more fragile and time-worn pieces, my mother bought Q a family of rabbits to take occupancy of the tree house.

An instant hit, as you can imagine.
The curtains (hand sewn by my mother) are dusty, the ribbons falling down from their original swags. The handmade rugs are curled and tattered with age and loving use. The tiny silk flowers and moss that originally decorated the outside of the tree are crumbled and grey, some torn away by tiny fingers, some simply disintegrated with light and time. But the main structure of this fabulously-conceived piece holds true and strong. The walls are as polished, glowing and beautifully-carved as ever, the three floors so solid that, in spite of its massive weight, you can carry it by them without a single nail easing loose. The wheels still roll, the balconies are straight and true, and the roof - raised just a bit and slanted front to back, in a nod to modern architecture, on pegs in order to leave a sort of modernist clerestory at the top of the house - is still flush and sturdy.
Look at the perfect, regular marks of my father's chisel in the arch of that doorway, in the chute of that window. My father, born so poor that he lived in a one-room, dirt-floor shack with his parents and 11 surviving siblings, went on to be the valedictorian of his highschool class, in spite of the fact that English was not his first language. Following that, he won, in his 20s, a prestigious spot as one of the government-sponsored WPA artists who decorated government buildings throughout the Midwest with his spectacular historical murals, and later a Fulbright grant, and places in many of the world's most prestigious museums as well as the Library of Congress. Trained only as an apprentice to a prominent artist of the time, he was also a self-taught architect who designed and built from the ground up one of the houses we lived in during my childhood.
It's no wonder, then, that this miniature oeuvre is such an enduring work of art, design and construction. It feels like a posthumous honor to him, then, to see the next generation of our family enjoying the work of love that he created for me one long, cold winter's day when I was small.
This one's for you, Papa. I hope you are somewhere beautiful watching this now and listening to my loving words. OX - Your MaiTai.

15 comments:

caramelcaramelo said...

what a privilege! lovely just so full of love. thank you! kenza.

alliot said...

wow!!!! I'm moved into tears. I would love to touch this ... to feel the warmth of wood, to feel the love.

Daan said...

beautiful!
heartwarming!

Di said...

It is really beautiful! And your father sounds like a wonderful man. it looks like many more years of playing to be done!

Mlle Paradis said...

Lucky all of you! The wood really is beautiful. I think someone already said it - you were (are!) very much loved! And I am a little covetous of those little crocheted creatures.

Juniper said...

It is every bit as wonderful as you described in your earlier post! What sweet parents you have, to take the time to make and adorn this little house. Love the mouse peeping through the window!

caramelcaramelo said...

hello again! thanks for your visit and I sent you an email. have a lovely day! kenza.

Yoli said...

I think his humble beginnings helped bring forth the great artist he was inside. When you are forced to make your own toys and create worlds around you from the ground up, it does wonders for the creative sensibility. How beautiful that both your parents wanted to show and give you their love straight from their hands and hearts. I am all mysty eyed here. Fitting tribute that it should go to your beloved daughter.

Ronda and Ryan said...

What a wonderful, wonderful gift, and such beautiful, spiritual words that I know make her Papa proud.

Anne said...

This is such a beautiful post, for so many reasons. Thank you for sharing your story with us :))

liza said...

Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this!

Merisi said...

Oh so sweet, this must be an emotional fortress for you, knowing that your father built this work of art for you to play with! And so thoughtful of you to document the original look via your photographs!
I can't wait to see more, thank you for sharing this treasure. It really warmed my heart!

Jeanne-ming said...

A beautiful "hareloom" indeed!

Pretty Mommy said...

Could this be the best heirloom bunny house ever? I'm so excited to have discovered your blog and can't wait for naptime so I can sit down and read it all....

Stacie said...

i am bawling.