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Hanson: The Doll House

12/22/10 5:55PM By Gayle Hanson
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(HOST) According to commentator Gayle Hanson, some of our best holiday memories may not even occur to us, until years after the presents have been unwrapped.

(HANSON)  Long before you could  make a video of your cat meowing Jingle Bells & post it on You Tube thrilling millions,  there was the tradition of the Christmas home movie.  These odes to childhood greed occupy a prominent place in my family.  My father was a suburban auteur with the precision of Hitchcock, if not, his aesthetic sensibilities.  
    
James G. Hanson was a sharp-beaked Yankee tool designer and engineer, whose behavior today might be labelled obsessive compulsive. He would have said he just wanted to "get things right."  While this worked to his advantage in a job where measurements were specified to the gazillionth of an inch, it could suck the ho, ho, ho right out of the holidays.
     
You're a kid whose sugar plum visions have awakened you before dawn. You want only to get to the get.  But while every other kid in town is tearing through wrapping paper in a frenzy,  You're stuck on the stair landing with your brother, as Dad prepares to capture the excitement of your first glimpse of the presents under the tree.   Problem is this is Take 7.
   
"Remember to wave when you get to the landing? He'd encourage.  "Try and look surprised."
   
"That's just perfect," mom would finally interject as we wave zombielike, our eyes glazed and squinting from the glare of the spotlights.  Dawn of the Dead meets the Nutcracker.
   
But not this year.  It's 1962 and dad's already been downstairs for hours.  We await upstairs for the word to launch us into action.   But things are strangely quiet.   We wait longer, and still nothing happens. Finally, with the sun ascending, dad returns to stand in the door.
   
"We're going to have to go into the basement," he grumbles. "You better put some shoes on."
   
This sounds bad.  No camera, no lights. The basement!  Uh, oh!
   
We follow my father into the cellar  halting at the door  to his workshop with its slide rules and power tools.   He pulls it open and we step inside. 
   
There in the center of his work table is a dollhouse replica of  our own red cape, with glass windows that open, and real hardwood floors.  Inside are four tiny human figures and a dog.
   
"It was too big to get through the door.  Santa had to leave it in here." says the man whose motto might have been "Measure four times cut once."
   
I was 9 dazzled,  and just wanted to play.  And I did, for years.  But it was only when I had a family of my own that I would come to understand just what it means to have a love too big to measure or fit through life's doors. But in that moment. On that Christmas morning. Everything was perfect.
   
And nothing made it onto film. 
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