When I was five years old, I was given my very first dolls house. It came with a set of dolls house dolls who lived in it, and it was as tall as I was, had pink and white furniture, real curtains at the windows, and even a winding staircase. The dolls house dolls who lived in it were a daddy doll, a mummy doll, and their two little children, a boy doll and a girl doll.
As thrilled as I was with my new toy, I was, in real life, in a very vulnerable state. My mother had just left my abusive father, and we had moved to live with my grandparents. I hadn’t seen my father in a few months, and I didn’t know what had happened to him. Nobody feels the need to tell a five year old too much.
I did play with my dolls house and the dolls house dolls. The boy doll and the girl doll had a settled and happy life. They would go to school and come back home. When they were home they would play outdoors and indoors, watch television, do their homework, eat, bathe, and sleep. The mummy doll looked after the children dolls. She would cook, clean, and help them with their homework. Sometimes she would make them stop playing outdoors and make them have baths. Both her children loved her very much.
But I was stumped when it came to the daddy doll. I had no idea what to do with him. During the day I’d pretend he went off to work, but often he stayed at work for days on end (dolls house days as well as my own days) because he had no role in the dolls house. Sometimes when I remembered him I’d have him come home and yell at the mummy doll, and then go off again, leaving the mummy doll in tears. His office was under my bed, and often I’d forget he was there.
Around a year later, it became clear I wasn’t going to see my father again. I pulled out the daddy doll from his office (where he had been having another long hiatus) and pulled up a chair to my wardrobe. I stood on the chair on tiptoe and dropped the daddy doll onto the top of the wardrobe. Now he was no longer in the office; he was properly gone, and he was not my problem. The mummy doll and the children dolls forgot about him. I forgot about him. Life went on.
When I got older, my dolls house and the dolls house dolls went to my sister. When she outgrew it, they went to a cousin. Nobody asked about the daddy doll. He wasn’t a part of the dolls house. He was – gone.
Although I realised that my father had gone when I was six, this didn’t stop me from thinking I would see him again. Grown ups divorce each other; nobody divorces their children. Right? I didn’t know it in so many words at the time, and I waited, so confidently, for him to come.
He never did.
When I left home at the age of seventeen to move to Chennai, in the midst of all my packing, I found the daddy doll on top of my wardrobe. I stood there, confused, until I placed him. I remember shrugging, and putting him on my dressing table, intending to give him away. I never got around to giving him away. He came with me to Chennai, remained in storage, and has stayed with my things over the years.
Last year, when my father died, I didn’t know what to feel. I had never known him to mourn him. But it was the time I finally got the daddy doll out of storage. He’s on my dressing table, the sad little daddy doll who belonged to the sad little girl who didn’t know what to do with him. She grew up, and he never found a place in her life. He lost her forever. Poor daddy doll and poor little girl.
They should have both belonged, and they didn’t. I wish I could change things, but I know I never can. This is my life, and perhaps, just perhaps, one day it will all be okay. Perhaps one day my children (when I have them) will know what the daddy doll does, because their father will show them. Perhaps things will come full circle, and then I can heal.