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The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been. (Madeleine L’Engle, 1918-2007) 

I made a big mistake when I told my two older grandchildren about the time my brothers climbed into the dollhouse my grandfather made for me. Since the house had been created for thumb-sized dolls, not little boys, the walls collapsed onto them.

Kate and Rebecca were horrified. Two giants had invaded precious pretend space and demolished it. Back then I probably saw the torn walls as slaughtered puppies. Now, I understand the viewpoint of my younger brothers, an exploration into uncharted territory. I really don’t think they planned destruction; it happened as a side-product of their exploration. Somehow, I expected my little girls to see with my adult point of view. They didn’t.

When Kate knew my youngest brother was coming to the house, she asked, “Is he one of the brothers who broke your doll house?”

“Uh, no, he was too little.”

I have a few weeks before my other brothers face my girls’ wrath—for a misdemeanor committed before computers, space travel, cell phones, and flat-screen television sets existed. Any pictures from that era would have been in black-and-white. They couldn’t have been instantly posted on Facebook.

Then again, my granddaughters may forget all about the long-ago dollhouse. Actually it’s likely. The holidays are filled with far more interesting opportunities. If the subject comes up I could ask if they ever made a mistake and then felt sorry about it later. The word, oops, appears early in a child’s vocabulary. I could mention again the story about the time my brothers and I wanted to play Indians in the basement when I was about four-or-five-years old. We needed a campfire. So I gathered some sticks from the front yard, placed them on the cement floor, and then lit them from the pilot on the hot-water heater. Fortunately, my mother had a good sense of smell.

“Did you get a spanking?” Kate asked.

“I don’t remember that part. But you can be pretty sure I did.” I certainly earned one.

The consequences of a fire in the basement didn’t occur to me at preschool age. I had planned to put it out. There was a faucet a few feet away, right next to the wringer washer. As an adult the thought of flames in the house strikes me with intense fear. I’ve apologized to my parents many times over the years.

Yet, somewhere deep inside me is that little adventurer who wondered what-would-happen-if? She learned to respect the parameters of reality, but appreciates the spunk of the kid with just a touch of mischief inside.

Yes, I loved that dollhouse my grandfather crafted for me. He was an incredible, gentle man. I loved my brothers even more. And, I still do.

save the kid in you

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