A tiny house for every story

Each of the 32 buildings in this village represents a time in my life.

Maggie downie
Holiday scene: The Macabre Theatre is one of the many buildings available in the Dickens' Village collection.

It's time for me to become king of the village again – the Dickens' Village, that is. I put it up every year after Thanksgiving and leave it up for about two months, mostly because taking it down isn't nearly as much fun as putting it up.

When I take those little houses out of their Styrofoam boxes – a frustrating endeavor as the Styrofoam always seems jammed into the cardboard box it came in – I feel like the ruler of the world.

Setting up the village makes me feel as little kids do when they blow on ants or sprinkle water on them to try and imagine what controlling the wind and the rain must be like. Yet I wonder if it's normal to feel excited about ruling an imaginary world when you're 27 years old.

Other than helping get the houses down from the attic, Matt, my boyfriend, is not allowed to help in the layout of the village. I'm open to suggestions, but the final decision rests solely in my hands. Once it's complete, I can stare at my creation for hours. I don't play with the people or make up pretend stories about what is going on in their lives, though. I just stand beside the glowing windows of the miniature homes and peer in.

Charles Dickens already created the stories of all those who live in the village, but the homes tell my story, too. Each of my 32 buildings represents a time in my life. The Curiosity Shop was a gift from my mom for my eighth-grade graduation. It was meant to reflect my curiosity, which still runs rampant.

Tiny Tim's house reminds me of my sister, Kate, because growing up she liked the story of Tiny Tim, as well as the Muppets and Saturday morning cartoons and "Star Wars" – all of which I had no interest in and am therefore an American anomaly.

The Macabre Theatre I bought for Matt because he loves Halloween and pretends to dislike Christmas – that or I just won't admit to being in love with a Scrooge.

There are three houses that we found in my great-grandma's closet labeled "Christmas present for Maggie." She passed away before giving them to me. There are 11 houses from my father, which I hounded him for when he stopped putting up his entire village, probably because getting them out of the Styrofoam is such a hassle.

This year, I'm adding some retired pieces to the village: the Cobbler Stand to signify the marathon I ran in 2005, and Lomas Ltd. Molasses because my great-grandma always had molasses cookies, which I devoured when I stayed at her house. Her cookies looked like flowers, and I would eat each petal, saving the two with the most granulated sugar sprinkled on them for last.

All these stories – and so many others – are typically asleep in the attic, but for a brief time each year I'm the king of the world, even if it is my own world. That's why I sit and stare and take such care in creating the perfect landscape.

Being the ruler is fun, but the little homes house my memories. In a hectic world, my village enables me to feel as though I still have control over some aspects of my life, and that need seems acceptable, even at age 27.

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