At a time when our helpers were solely preoccupied with looking after my younger sister, and I was left to my own devices, as long as I don't leave the confines of our ancestral house in Santa Mesa, the afternoons were spent sneaking into that tiny room that connects my mother's bedroom to her private bathroom. On some days, I would climb into cabinets and bookcases and reach into my father's stash of adult magazines, undisturbed on the topmost shelf. At grade 5, I have yet to understand that a sexual intercourse leads into baby-making. I just look at the pictures and get fascinated with the couple's lusty facial expressions. But on other days, I would plunk myself next to the same cabinet, where my younger sister's most important toy was assembled by our father. Given to her by our stateside relatives, her Barbie House was my perversion when boys of my age were supposed to play something else.
Little can be said about my play style. There was Barbie and there was Ken. I would sometimes make them love (by simulating the pumping scenes and bent-over positions I've seen in the porn magazines) but most of the time, I stuck with my fantasy role play where Barbie was a goddess who was harassed by evil dolls who wanted the pink and plasticky house for themselves. Eventually, Barbie and Ken did adopt a kid (another action figure) who I called Miko. It would grow from there - becoming sophisticated - until I found myself assembling an "army of light" made up of tiny action figures who would protect Barbie. Ken would turn into a villain, and an angry Guile doll (from Street Fighter, which was a gift from the same relatives abroad) became the reluctant hero.
I would eventually abandon the Barbie House and the dolls after my sister told tales of my exploits to our parents. I don't recall being scolded, but the discovery was enough for me to turn my attention elsewhere. The fantasy role play would go on for years, with Guile, and a new Barbie Doll, which I bought from my own allowance. She would become the new goddess.
Miko went missing. I would never find that toy again.
As my sister and I get older, we would find new hobbies leaving the doll house untouched. It would be disassembled, put in a plastic bag, and was among our belongings that were moved when we settled into our new house. The disassembled Barbie House would be kept inside the closet, under the bed, and when there was no more space in my sister's room, it would eventually find itself dusting in the veranda. It was the part of the house that I claimed for my garden plants ages ago. Still, it would take years before the thought of taking out the foldable doll house from its bag and clean it would take place.
"Kuya sa iyo na itong mga dolls ko." My sister pleaded when she learned that I was boxing all my toys. I was already getting hooked on PC games, and I was fast outgrowing my action figures. Only one doll from her, including Guile and my own Barbie, survived the passing of time.
To restore, what was considered a junk, takes a generosity of patience and a sliver of craftsmanship to accomplish this project. Dirt and grime coated the surface of the Barbie House, while its interiors were barely recognizable because of mold and other traces of plant life. It did not help that the delicately-painted wallpaper sheets were peeling off. To clean the entire thing with soap water and dish scrubber might worsen the damage wrought by neglect.
But these concerns didn't matter. I was bent on cleaning the doll house and reassemble it after being forgotten for more than a decade. So scrub and rinse I did, until my own worries were washed away. Credit to its maker, the house and what remains of its furnishing did look vintage after they have been left to dry. The problem, however, lies in how the structure would stand up. While the beams supporting the roof are still intact, its locks were already broken. The walls, which also serve as the base would not snap. It felt like building a house of cards that would anytime fall apart.
I would have given up and simply put back the house inside its bag if I were not bent on writing about the experience. The Barbie House is still my sister's possession, despite my initial thoughts of giving it away. But it mattered to me more than just a toy. It was my wellspring of creativity and the beginning of my journey toward self-discovery. Many years later, I would still recall the house while playing the Sims on my PC.
The perversion of my childhood is now an accepted adult pastime.
"It has to stand up," I mumbled as I connect the sturdy blocks that would make up the pillars that would carry the weight of the doll house's roofing. To bring back a semblance of my childhood, I brought along some action figures who once revered the dolls. Meanwhile, the pillars worked - briefly - until they became too wobbly to support the structure. The playtime approach has to be modified.
I need to think practical, like my dad.
Using duct tape (which I was supposed to use to patch that hole on my mother's bathtub) the locks were sealed and the beams were bound together. What took hours of realigning and snapping the walls to the roof was done in minutes. The Barbie House finally stood, like it did, the first time I snuck into that tiny room to play with my sister's toys.
"Ang galing naman." my sibling affectionately said when I let her see the reassembled doll house. "Pakita mo kina Lenin ha?" She insisted. "Okay lang sila maglaro diyan." Her remark left a smile on my face. I have bright hopes for my nephews.
Gazing at the Barbie House from a distance, just before I disassemble it again to store it somewhere away from the elements. I didn't see a toy coming back to life. Instead, it was a personal monument rebuilt - albeit for a day - to celebrate the being I have become.