It is hands down, the most ambitious home renovation I have ever embarked on. The property is a charming fixer upper that has been in my family for more than three decades, but in the past 16 years or so, has fallen into a state of disrepair due to abandonment and neglect.
There is no electricity and no running water. The windows are long gone, the roof deck is missing and the only hint of the structure’s former glory lies in the faded yellow paper still clinging to the walls in a variety of patterns like some kind of tribute to bad taste.
As I survey each room, I can’t help thinking about the family who called this place home once upon a time. They were a lovely, lively group who made many memories in the three-bedroom mansion and I have no doubt that there would have been many more had they not been unceremoniously evicted when the owner of the property did the unthinkable: She grew up.
No question about it. Restoring the dollhouse my father built for me is a unique undertaking. As I strip the old wallpaper from the gutted structure and clean the furnishings I collected over several Christmases and birthdays, I am flooded with memories of this labor of love that my father spent two years of his life constructing.
This was no ordinary dollhouse. This was a massive structure that featured ¾” plywood, removable roof panels and individual shingles made from old slatted closet door material that my father seemed to have in limitless supply. It was a far cry from the cute, decorative (read: flimsy) models I was used to seeing in Frank’s Nursery and Crafts. My father was determined to make his strong enough to withstand the energy of an accident-prone nine-year-old. He succeeded and when I retrieved the house from the garage loft after my mother passed, I was thrilled to see that my father’s work, for the most part, had stood the test of time.
There are certainly things that need to be done and challenges to be met over the course of the endeavor to freshen the house. I have no doubt that most of those challenges will shorten my life and cause more of my hair to turn gray, but I’m willing to take those on one room at a time. I’ve discovered that the windows and doors are not a standard size making replacement parts difficult to find. There is the formal dining room that is all-but-impossible to reach and I can’t help wondering how I will finish out that space without calling in the talents of a reputable, flea-sized paper hanging company, but I remain hopefully optimistic.
Because I know that in my quiet moments, when my mind is still, the answers will come. Perhaps out of my own ingenuity, or perhaps it is Dad offering me the solution to the situation in an effort to contribute something to this posthumous father/daughter project that will be enjoyed by generations of our family to come.
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