At the mother’s prompting
the father finally built it.
A sprawling three story
Victorian. The family
arrived perfectly packaged:
father, mother, girl, boy,
and baby — orange molded
hair, and dress impeccable.
The father always in grey
slacks and tie whether shoveling
snow outside or reading
in the living room. Raucous
playing by the children perhaps,
but how out of hand could it get?
With the boy in red bow tie
and suspenders, the girl in pink smock.
Even the baby’s cry was petite
and dainty, framed by
the genuine lace cap
glued to her scalp.

Never an imaginative one,
I put her in the kitchen.
The mother I mean.
That’s where she usually was.
It was the room that enchanted
me most, thanks to the curious
love affair one can have with a salt
dough baked potato, and its
exquisite speck-square of butter,
stacks of pancakes, and delicate
box of finely molded clay
strawberries. A brazen one
I went to church one Sunday,
took communion, but did
not give back the clear plastic
cup in the silver tray when
it passed by. I needed a garbage
can, which I carefully filled
with torn bits of notebook paper,
young and dramatic enough to
imagine it among my worst sins.

One day, my brother snuck in,
placed a huge clump of
stuck together raisins in
the Victorian style toilet,
then situated the bow tie
boy atop the precarious perch.
My mother ran at the outraged
shriek, then did her best not
to laugh when the boy
toppled over with no hand
touching him as if a spirit
wind had blown across the house.

It wasn’t long before the
candelabra, lamp cunningly
made of button, marble
and toothpaste cap were
zipped up in plastic bags,
the house moving to the top
of the freezer in the garage
and kept there by an insistent
mother despite the grumblings
of the father at the space taken up,
by the house, the wire Christmas
tree with glued on red wooden bells,
beds and tables, and the round
dough plaque where I firmly
impressed the baby’s hand
as if she would keep on growing.

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