Remember as a child trying very hard to convince yourself that your dolls were secretly alive and would erupt with activity and conversation as soon as you left for the dinner table? As my footsteps sounded toward the closed door of my room I would imagine the mad scramble as they tried to place themselves exactly where I’d left them. During one phase I used to sneak up on my own room, pop the door open, and study them all with a beady-eyed gaze. A few times I thought there were slight changes, but I was never certain.
For a while it seemed as though Norah was not playing very much with her toys. They just sat in their baskets collecting dust and she was perpetually asking me, “Pease, Mommy, can I have something to hold?” Then I realized the problem. My house was too darn neat. I began to strew things around and leave things out and suddenly she was playing. Then I decided to tickle her imagination. I started setting up things for her to find–creating a little tea party in progress on the balcony and leaving the door open, or making a fort on the living room couch right before she gets up from rest time. It was a happy day when I found a huge set of used magnetic trains and wooden tracks at the outdoor market. (Only sometimes I sit down “just to set it up” for her to find and end up running some trains myself for a little while . . . my best track yet was a figure eight with a bridge right over the crossing.)
I like to sneak in her room and tuck Goat into bed with a book on his lap and glasses on his nose. Or put two little animals with tea cups facing each other under the bed. Today I set up a birthday party for the dolls in the dollhouse, complete with a wrapped gift and a cake on the table. (Recipe for one miniature cake: cut a circle from a slice of zucchini bread and frost with the leftover lemon mousse in the fridge.) “I guess it’s rest time, let’s go . . .Oh, look! The dolls are having a birthday party! Whose birthday do you think it is?” and so left her to it. Judging by the repeated birthday anthems sounding from her room, each doll has now had a turn being the birthday girl.