Eddie the Elf trudged through the snow up the long icy path to the little house where Santa and his wife lived at the North Pole. It was a bright November day, just a month before Christmas. White smoke from a fire inside the house was coming out of the chimney. The sun reflected off the snow-covered roof. Icicles, dripping water, hung down from the eaves and the shutters. Eddie knocked at the front door.
“Who is it?” Mrs. Claus shouted from inside.
“Oh, come right in.”
Eddie turned the brass doorknob and went inside. Mrs. Claus was standing by the sink drying some dishes and she smiled at him. She looked at the folder Eddie was carrying.
“He’s in there,” Mrs. Claus said, motioning to the door to the study. “Just go right in.”
In the study, Eddie saw Santa sitting at a desk next to a blazing fire. He marched up to it. Being an elf, he could just peer over the top of the desk.
“What have we here?” Santa asked.
“We have this request,” Eddie said. He handed over a folder he was carrying. “A girl named Barbara in Southampton, New York.”
Santa put on his spectacles, opened the folder and read the letter inside.
“A doll house? I don’t see what is so hard about a doll house,” Santa said.
“Look at the bottom,” Eddie said. “She wants it to be big enough to walk into. Standing up.”
“Hmmm. And it’s to be two stories high? And with an attic?”
“You know the rule. It has to go down the chimney. If it can’t fit down a chimney, we can’t deliver it.”
“We think we can build one that can go down a chimney.” Santa raised a bushy white eyebrow. “We think we can build it in pieces, you could take it down the chimney, and she could assemble it.”
“How old is this little girl?”
“She has a dad.”
“Another question. Something that big–how big is their living room? Or maybe they would assemble it in the yard. Do they have a back yard?”
“Santa, we’ll find out.”
And so the elf left.
Four days later, a very small man knocked on the front door of a little home on Layton Avenue in Southampton. A mom answered. She looked down at the small man. He wore a uniform with a badge on the jacket. CHIMNEY CHECKER it said.
“Can I help you?” the mom asked.
“I’m here to clean your chimney,” the little man said in a high squeaky voice. He held up an official form. “Also I have to measure it up. I’m from the Village Chimney Department.” He held up another official form.
“Oh, well it’s right over there in the living room. Will there be a mess?”
The little man opened a black bag he was carrying on his shoulder and took out a shovel with a short handle. He pulled on the handle and it telescoped to a big handle.
“No mess,” he said. “Or if there is a little one, I will clean it up.”
On his way into the living room, the little man glanced out a window. The house had a back yard, and it was quite sizeable indeed.
During the first week in December, the elves set aside one entire workroom to fashion the many pieces needed for the giant dollhouse. A dozen elves were assigned to do the work. They built walls and pictures to go on the walls. They built a kitchen with a refrigerator that folded up. They built windows and doors that folded up. They built a shingled roof that folded up. And they built a bathroom with a full size bathtub that folded up. It was quite a job they did.
On the night before Christmas, Santa made his usual stops at the houses in Southampton, his reindeer landing on the roofs and Santa sliding down the chimneys with the presents and then climbing back up again in order to move on.
When he got to the little house on Layton Avenue, however, he found that hovering in the sky nearby in a long line were nearly 20 other sleighs pulled by teams of reindeers from the North Pole. These were the backup sleighs and the reindeer and drivers in training, and they had arrived right on schedule to bring all the pieces of Barbara’s dollhouse to Southampton. They waited patiently, and then moved slowly forward as Santa, piece by piece, carried the folded-up front door, the walls, the windows, the kitchen refrigerator and the folded-up bathtub down the chimney to place them alongside the decorated Christmas tree beside the fireplace.
This took quite a while. And though Santa was up to the task, when he got back after delivering the last piece—a set of full-size dishes and silverware for the dining room table—he did wipe his brow and take a deep breath from the work. But then he smiled, shouted “on Dasher, on Dancer” and was off to the next house.
* * *
Just before dawn, as Barbara slept peacefully in her upstairs bedroom counting the sugarplum fairies in her sleep, Joe, her father, tiptoed down the stairs in his bathrobe, walked into the living room and stopped in his tracks.
What was this?
He moved forward, poking around and sizing it all up, and he decided he’d better get busy. He walked down to his basement workshop, brought up some tools and began to work. Pretty soon, he’d completed half the giant dollhouse, but that was all that would fit in the living room. He sat down in a club chair for a while, thinking about it, and then he noticed there was a note attached with scotch tape to one of the many boxes he had not yet opened. The note read “ASSEMBLE IN THE YARD. MERRY CHRISTMAS.” There was a signature. “SANTA.” And then he saw the arrow alongside, written in magic marker, that pointed to the window and the backyard beyond.
* * *
At seven, Barbara and her mother came down the stairs. On the sofa, they found Joe, fast asleep. And under the Christmas tree by the fireplace there was…nothing.
Barbara burst into tears. Her crying woke her father, who leaped up and pointed to the window. “Look out there,” he said. “See what Santa brought.”
Out that window, Barbara now saw—just visible through some snowflakes in the early morning light—a front door to the biggest dollhouse she had ever seen. There was a sign attached to the door.
TO ENTER, SEE BARBARA.
And so Barbara and her mom and dad rushed into their coats and, together with their little dog Scruff, ran out of the house and around to the yard. It was beautiful. There were two Victorian turrets up top, three ornate red brick chimneys, and a wrap-around porch festooned with decorative railings. They climbed up the porch and went in.
They could all stand up in there just fine. It was just as Barbara had wanted.
“Could I make you some tea?” Barbara asked. She motioned to some chairs there in the living room. “Welcome to my doll house.”