And there it was, resting in the tiny sink in the dollhouse’s kitchen: a bloody test strip. Sticking out like a sore thumb. Drenched in all that tiresome irony and clichéd connotations. Here, inside the four room dollhouse, surrounded by pastel colours and impossibly small cups and pots. The Sylvanian families patiently waiting in the next room, frozen in anticipation of yet another tea party.
Even here – in the metaphorical and physical inner sanctum of innocence – Type 1 Diabetes will find a way of creeping in. Insinuating itself into every corner of life, of domesticity, of childhood.
How it got there, I have no idea. Any Type 1 parent will tell you that those little strips show up in the most inexplicable of places. Go to any T1D forum, and you’re bound to find the question: where is the strangest place you’ve ever found a test strip?
At times it’s funny. At times heart-breaking. Especially at times like these: when they get mixed up with toys, or under a Teddy bear after night-time tests in the dark. And for a moment, your brain can’t quite comprehend. You try to make sense of what you’re seeing, and your mind starts playing that “one of these things is not like the others” game.
But then, isn’t this just as much a part of her childhood as dollhouses and teddies, as action heroes and bikes, as climbing trees and jumping in puddles? It is. It has been, for her, since the age of 2. And, quite frankly, my daughter has done an incredible job of decorating her childhood by incorporating ALL of these elements, Type 1 included.
It reminded me of a poem I wrote for her on her 3rd birthday, the first one after her diagnosis. The day she received her dollhouse. And I knew that, just like back then, my girl’s still got this. She’s got this life, her life, and she’s decorating it exactly the way she wants – even if she has to wade through some bloody test strips along the way.
So here it is:
Oupa dropped off the dollhouse today
A crate full of fragile furniture
You’re still sleeping
Covered in sand and sugar-free candy
Your third birthday
Which you spent running around the park
Me running after you
Mostly to avoid the guests
And the inevitable question:
“How are you doing?”
Your first birthday
After your body declared war on itself
And our house was covered in the carnage
Of bloody test strips
And the sweetly sick smell
Of insulin needles
And now I sit here
Not knowing how to even begin
To fill this dollhouse up again
But I hear your tiny voice behind me
And you giggle and tremble with excitement
As you start filling up the rooms
Piece by piece
Room by room
And just like that
It’s not empty anymore
None of it feels empty anymore
Because I know that
An empty room
Is still an invitation