Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Mystery of the Dollhouse

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, January 18, 2017, by Sara Jewell

Russell Trueman reveals the dollhouse that sits in the upstairs dormer window of his home.

I couldn’t believe it as I counted down the civic numbers on Route 6 past Shinimicas and into Truemanville. Of all the houses I could be visiting, it was the one that has intrigued me for almost 15 years. Every trip to Amherst along Route 6 means a glance at the huge farm house with the dollhouse in the upstairs dormer window.

The mystery was solved shortly after I knocked on Russell Trueman’s back door.
“It’s a model of the house,” the 89-year-old father of six explained after he led me upstairs to where the dollhouse sits on the window seat. He removed the roof, which is all one piece, and revealed the full furnished downstairs rooms inside. “I made it ten feet to the inch.”
I don’t know what I expected but like anything that is beyond our imaginings, getting up close to this dollhouse left me astonished and delighted.
I located the door where I came in, and traced my steps through the dollhouse to the stairs. The house is huge; there are so many rooms. There was a piano in the dollhouse “but it’s long gone,” Russell said then picked up a piece. “Here’s the old television.”
The dining room chairs were delicate, and the china cabinet had a glass door. There was the washer and dryer just inside the door through which I’d entered, and the kitchen cupboards were replicas of the ones he still used.
As he put the roof back on, Russell pointed out the chimneys. “The flues are made from individual wooden bricks that I glued together.”
No one has ever truly played with the dollhouse; his children were grown when he made it, and his grandchildren have rearranged the furniture on occasion.
“It’s no good for anything, it’s just something to look at,” he said. “I just made it because I wanted to make it. It’s so large, people don’t have room for it.”

Russell has been making furniture, in miniature and in full size, most of his adult life. He has made annual Christmas ornaments for his daughter and son-in-law who live next door, and dressers for the bedrooms in his home.
“I have a wood shop connected to the house and I can go right down steps to it,” he told me. “That was the only thing around here I called mine; everything else I called ‘ours’. When someone said I was in my room, they knew exactly where I was at.”
But it is a space Russell hasn’t ventured into in more than seven years.
“My wife, Hilda, passed away in 2009, after my daughter and I took care of her at home for a year. I didn’t do any work in the shop then and I haven’t been down since. I lost all interest after she was gone, and now my eyesight for near-work is no good.”

My visit with Russell lasted over an hour and after 15 years of wondering about the dollhouse in the window, I discovered it was simply one of many stories the dollhouse house had to tell, all of them finely detailed, heartbreakingly true, and crafted out of love.

This photo was taken in late afternoon but you can see the dollhouse dormer in the real dormer.

1 comment:

  1. I treasure this - the story and the man. You've met a gem.