Our two granddaughters spent a recent Saturday afternoon here, redecorating my dollhouse where gauzy-winged fairies live, and setting free the miniature animals in its garden. The dollhouse is 1:12 scale, and both little girls, ages 8 and nearly 5, play with the tiny accessories as gently as I do. They want me close by to hear their commentary while they rearrange the fairies’ world, so I keep a comfortable chair in the dining room for their visits. The only time I intervened that day was when the smaller one found a plastic Darth Vader and a bare-chested pirate in a toy box and tried to smuggle the two action figures inside to join the fairies. The dollhouse is a place of peace, I reminded her as I tried not to laugh. That evening, I found a tiny sheep in the dollhouse bathtub, another perched on the wee lid of the toilet and three more napping on the fairies’ beds. Other members of the flock got stuck in the chicken coop, pigged out on a picnic feast, and stirred anxiety in the hearts of their loyal protectors, a china sheepdog and a golden retriever. My beloved, free-spirited granddaughters brought topsy-turvy joy to the dainty perfection of the dollhouse.

I walked the girls home later that day, and we paused a few blocks up the street to admire a kid-size car in a yard. The 4-year-old suddenly knelt and pointed to a brown rabbit sitting nearby on the grass. “Hi, bunny,” the 8-year-old whispered, and the rabbit turned its head and watched us, not blinking, until it hopped under a bush. At another house, we studied a thick, knotted tree stump with a deep indentation at its base. That is the cave tree, the 4-year-old announced, where bears and tarantulas hide — but they’re friendly and won’t eat us. Phew, I thought. Half a block later, a gray and white cat trotted across the street to greet the 8-year-old and roll on its belly for petting.

My typical watch-the-clock approach would have made sure the girls were home well before their mom and dad arrived with takeout dinners. But if we’d hurried along to meet an artificial deadline, we would have missed the bunny, the cat, the bear and the tarantula. I wondered how many other small, precious moments lay lost among the bare spots of absence and distance in the long months of the pandemic.

I’ve planted hundreds of tulips over the years, and every spring I wait and worry that I did something wrong and nothing will come up. Most of the tulips rally after a winter underground, but I still find myself focusing on the few bare spots instead of the masses of blooms. When passersby stop to compliment my garden, I feel an urge to point out the little patch where none of the tulips survived, or the bed where I should have planted a prettier mix of colors. Now I simply say thank you and try to picture the garden through someone else’s eyes, someone less critical, who expects to see beauty and therefore finds it. A few evenings ago as dusk set in, I turned off the overhead lights and kept only a small lamp burning while I looked out the kitchen window. At first I could see only filmy shadows, but after my vision adjusted, curving waves of tulips seemed to glow in the garden, and the bare spots disappeared in the half-light.

Craft Rozen is thankful for the memories that wind through her family in long ribbons of joy. Email her at scraftroze@aol.com

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