My doll. The only toy I have kept from my childhood.
I had her put away, wrapped up in a bright orange plastic bag, which now makes me think of a body bag. Even thought about just throwing her out with the trash, but I kept putting it off.
Then I had a photo prompt about getting an image of a favorite toy. First I thought of my new cell phone. Then I thought of the stuffed mouse that the cats abuse on a regular basis. But I was led to the closet to that bright orange bag.
She was in there, taped together around her torso because she broke a long time ago. Her head, hair, and little blue eyes are all intact, and she has these cute little teeth in her permanent semi-grin. A bag with a few of her clothes was in there, too, and a couple of hand made doll blankets from my grandmother.
Maybe it was the little dotted Swiss dress that got me, or those blue eyes. I got out the iron and began pressing her dress for our photo shoot. Once she was dressed I took her downstairs so I could comb her hair, and found myself hugging her to my chest with my left arm, much the same way I would have as a six year old girl.
The dress, combing her hair, going through this little girl ritual of dressing the doll brought up so many memories, and gave me pause. I held her close to my heart and my left hand held the back of her little head, much the same way I have held my own children years ago and countless other little ones.
When she was brand new, in the winter of 1960-61, my family took the train from Illinois to California to see my paternal grandparents. Of course, Chatty Baby, the doll got to come along, too. All I recall from that ride is one quiet moment in the train, rumbling along, and I pulled her little chain to see what she had to say. She giggled. And so did every adult on that train car. I guess it was all about timing.
We were a family of five then, and a few years later I was blessed with another sibling. Ours was a small town life, where we walked to the school, where there was a 4-H fair every summer, where my maternal grandparents lived just a few blocks away. We would ride our bikes, walk around and play at the school playground in the summer, chase lightning bugs, swing on the tree swing that hung in the maple tree in the back yard. It was a good life.
And when I was little I had this doll, and I could pretend to be her big sister or her mommy and do all those motherly things that I had seen. I’m struck by how much of our learning as children comes by imitating what we see.
For a moment when I held my doll today I had tears in my eyes. I’m not sure why, but this I do know…that it felt for all the world that when I was holding her I was holding the little girl in me. She has always been there deep inside, but kind of packed away so that grown up life could be dealt with.
So now the grown up girl looks through the lens and poses those cute little arms so that it looks like my doll wants to be picked up and held.
I think she does.