My doll history: frightening.
Actually, I didn't have much of a doll history until now. Until I cracked the code, or something, and came to realize with a subversive little shiver just how pleasurable it can be to dress and undress dolls. . .especially with clothes you've made yourself.
As a kid, I was sullen, uncooperative, usually bad-natured and mainly interested in bugs and half-metamorphosed tadpoles, awful blobby things with legs that my mother wouldn't let me keep in my room. Murky jars abounded in the basement right next to the preserves.
I just wasn't a proper little girl. At all. My mother, at a certain point, noticing I wasn't Quite the Thing, pressed a doll on me. Her name was "Deb" and she wasn't even a real doll, not a baby doll or a Barbie. In fact, she looked a little bit like my mother, bland-faced, her hair a perfect helmet of black. Deb was short for Miss Debutante, and how an eight-year-old would understand that word or be able to prounce it is beyond me, but my parents howled when I referred to her (coldly) as "Miss De-BUTTON-ty." She was quickly discarded along with the manicure set designed to make me stop biting my nails.
I don't know, I guess a Barbie or two drifted my way, I'm not sure I recall, though I do remember one of them ended up in a sarcophagus wrapped in perfume-soaked strips of white pillowcase. Most Barbies, no matter how impeccably dressed, always seem to end up at the very back of the closet, naked with their legs obscenely splayed, their hair in a feral, impossible frizz. No one knows what happens to the clothes.
I couldn't own one of these dolls because they cost upwards of $10,000.00. But some time ago, a couple of years maybe, I was scouting birthday presents for my granddaughter Lauren, a sunny soul who so valiantly carries what might be the burden of Type 1 diabetes that she seems to send it whimpering into the corner.
Every year the family takes part in a jolly occasion, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk for the Cure. Our team is called Lauren's Ladybugs (or "wadybugs" as she used to call them), so anything ladybug-esque is of interest to her.
I was dithering around not finding anything, standing in an upscale toy store too expensive to think about buying in, when!
I saw THIS.
Me, who hates dolls? who never played with dolls? who thought dolls were dumb? who didn't know why anyone would even purchase a doll? let alone play with one? Oh my goodness. This was LOVE. Then I turned and walked away, talked myself out of the whole thing. Far too expensive! I was on the other side of the mall when I realized Lana Ladybug was only twenty bucks, and how could I NOT buy her anyway??
But that's not the last of it, or even the beginning, because as L. L. slept in my closet awaiting wrapping, "something" began to eat at me.
I WANTED that doll. I wanted to hold that doll, take its dress off and put it back on again, set it on my bookcase to watch over my most cherished books.
It took a while before I gave in, and even at that, it's only recently I've started to make clothes for it. Actually, not for mine (and I have two of them now - only two - so far, that is - ) but for my granddaughters'. They must have at least ten of these Groovy Girls stuffed in a box (and they're almost always naked, perhaps a sort of tribute to their ancestral goddess, Barbie).
These little doll-smidgens are ideal to knit for: long, slim and tubular, so that you can make tops, skirts and dresses all along the same lines.
So that's what I'm doing, to surprise them. I had to try them on my own dolls, of course, and that's when I got this strange feeling. What was it? Intimacy? Can't be that. The doll's pliable arms and legs made it possible to bend her limbs in half. So she was malleable. Vulnerable. Recognizably human. Her face was sweet, her hair a tousle. I don't know! What's happening to me? Am I going all soft? Is this weird or what?
It feels good to dress these dolls, as if the little girl in me, the one who never had a chance to develop because she was too busy being a tough little survivor, is finally coming out to play.
I see my blondies, my grandgirls, all done up in their sparkly butterfly tshirts, their glittery shoes that light up when they run, fluffy little tutus, stripey candycane tights, and I think: I missed that. All that. I was all done up in my brother's castoffs. In some cases they'd been through two brothers, who were five and ten years older than me. So those clothes were very old and very shabby indeed, usually held on me with big safety pins.
Is this Cinderella awakening in me, or what? Why now? I'm not happy, don't ever get that idea. I'm one of the unhappiest people I have ever known. But I'm not dead inside. Not quite. Bad mental health, rotten luck and being thoroughly cursed has not quite stamped out that tiny ladybug of joy at the centre of my heart.