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Once Upon A Time

The first home I ever organized – and I organized it over and over – was nine square feet. Yes, nine. It was my dollhouse, though it was actually a mouse house.

As a little girl I collected miniatures (foreshadowing anyone?), and one Hanukah I was given this mouse house crafted out of wood made especially for me by a local builder. Every room had actual working lights and the walls were covered in the same wallpaper as what was in our home. My grandmother knit mini area rugs for the bedrooms and my Aunt Ida (who lived to 101) crocheted curtains for the living room windows, which opened and closed.

I spent hours rearranging the furniture before putting my dozen little mice, each dressed in their own costume, inside. There was a nurse, Raggedy Ann and Andy, a Chiquita banana look alike, one in a nightgown and matching long cap, a baseball player and more. These tiny mice became my friends. I had names for them and I created scenarios. And though I enjoyed fantasizing with dialogue, the real fun I had was reorganizing their furniture.

Who knew all those hours with the mouse house was actually preparation for the day I’d

be doing the same with my own 90 square feet and much more? It doesn’t matter if it’s nine or ninety or nine hundred, the bones are the same. You’ve got a room and furniture and stuff and your goal is to create the best arrangement possible.

The mouse house now lives on a top shelf in my old bedroom closet. While at my folks’ this summer, I climbed up on a chair to look inside. It appeared as though a tornado had passed through. Instinctively I removed the mice, the pieces of furniture, the mini cakes, bottles of milk, teeny books, statues, chairs and cups, and then, as if by muscle memory, I replaced each one. It was a tad more difficult as my hand is now significantly larger, but it was with the same care I used over thirty years ago that I reorganized my mouse house.

At one point I held one of the mice up to my face. Now that I live in New York City mice have taken on an entirely new image, yet staring into the sweet face of my old friend a wave of nostalgia passed over and my eyes misted. Maybe it was from the memory of more innocent times or because this mouse house shaped the person I became, but either way, it was nice to spend time with my old friends. And though they didn’t speak back to me this time, I think they enjoyed it too.

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