Granna's Secret Doll Cupboard
LILLIE missed her grandmother. "Granna" often came to visit Lillie and her little brother Jacob in Boston, but they had never seen her house in faraway Colorado.Skip to next paragraph
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Nestled in the foothills outside of Denver, Granna's large, old country house had plenty of room for the small treasures and curious furniture collected over the 100 years since the family had built the house in 1891. Lillie had often heard her mother try to persuade her grandmother to sell the house and move east, but the older lady only laughed. All her friends and all the charities she volunteered for needed her. And then there was her work. She wrote stories about Colorado. So how could she leave the
Rocky Mountains? What, in heaven's name, would she have to write about?
So Granna would not leave her fascinating house where her father had brought her mother as a bride, where she had been born, and where Lillie's mother had been brought up.
One summer, just as the fifth grade ended for Lillie and the third grade for Jacob, Granna invited the children to spend part of the summer with her. It happened that their parents would be very busy with their new business, and their mother felt they would be happier in the big house in Denver.
So Lillie and Jacob went to Colorado to stay with their grandmother. They spent days exploring the house while she worked on her stories, cleaned, gardened, or baked delicious breads and cookies. When Granna had to be away, her friend, Mrs. Iafrati, looked after them. It was an exciting time, full of adventure and daily discoveries.
The house had many rooms, and each room was filled with old photographs, paintings, books, lace doilies, and Victorian chairs and chests. Granna gave the children permission to inspect every nook and cranny. There were cupboards and closets to explore, mysterious locked boxes and keys to open them with, and more treasures inside.
Sometimes the children found jewelry, sometimes letters, sometimes odd little objects - an "uluak" (an Eskimo "woman's knife"), an ancient jade animal that came from China, and a box of old carved wooden buttons. In one box was a beautiful tapestry ribbon from France that once had adorned the neck of the 19th-century English actress Lillie Langtry (after whom Lillie had been named).
One day as Lillie and Jacob were exploring, they found a door that they had missed before. It led up to a room called a cupola, a round room at the top of the house with lots of windows. There was a comfortable couch covered in sky-blue brocade, a few chairs, and a large, low table. In one corner, standing against the only wall in the room, was an antique breakfront. The top part was a cupboard with stained-glass doors. The bottom was a chest of drawers.
There was something special about the old chest. Lillie thought so, and Jacob agreed. The stained glass made it impossible to tell what was inside. But the children knew it would be something amazing, especially since they couldn't find the key.
"Granna," said Lillie at supper that night. "We found a cupboard and chest thing in that round room on top of the house."
"Yes, indeed," said Granna.
"But it was locked," said Jacob.
"Well, it is a very special cupboard," said Granna.
"Why? What makes it special?" asked Lillie.
"That's the doll cupboard," replied Granna.
"Doll cupboard? Do you have dolls?" asked Lillie, who had begun to feel she was too old for dolls because Melissa and Jane, her two best friends, thought dolls were for little kids. Still, Lillie liked dolls more than she would admit.
"Oh, yes," replied Granna. "I have dolls. I have a great many dolls. But the best of them are locked in the cupboard."
"Why locked?" Jacob asked.
"Because, to me, they are treasures. But, tomorrow I will give you the key and you can take them down and have a look for yourselves."
The next day, Lillie and Jacob took the key their grandmother gave them and went up the stairs to the cupola. Lillie reached up and inserted the funny old hollow key in the lock. The lock wouldn't budge. She jiggled it, and finally it turned. The hinges were stiff with age and the door creaked open slowly. Lillie pushed back both the doors to gaze in wonder at the collection.