Monday, December 9, 2013

Of Dolls, and Meanings

  When we were little, a girl gave my older (and oldest) sister a china doll. In retrospect, she was rather worn and fairly ugly, but Oh, I wanted to hold her! But she was breakable, and I was seven and us younger kids weren't allowed to play with her. We had cloth dolls which my oldest sister painstakingly made; they were intricate and lovely, but they weren't "fancy".
For years after that I wished and wished I had a china doll, and was fairly sick over it. But we didn't have money for things like that, and I knew it, so said nothing.

  When I was about 13 a dear older friend took us three younger girls into a large department store. It was our first time in an elevator, our first time in such a fancy store, and while she and Mom looked at plates and sweaters, etc. we 3 younger girls found a rack of china dolls and looked at them with our hands behind our backs.
Our friend came over to look at them too, and decided to buy our pick for each of us girls. I was astonished that Mom okay'd it, (she usually didn't allow people to buy us stuff, not wanting us to feel entitled, I guess!) (We were pretty cute, old fashioned looking kids; little girls in skirts and braids and shy smiles, so I'm sure we could have gotten spoiled into "expecting things".)

  It took us three girls the longest time to decide, as we agonized over picking. Finally, I ended with one that reminded me of Anne of Green Gables & named her Rosemary. My sisters chose a chocolate haired one, (which was a different mold, and actually the prettiest) naming her Clara, and a blonde, Maybelle (the same face-mold as mine).
I was weak with joy all the way home, not able to believe that I finally had a real china doll! We played with our dolls carefully; and the younger two used them all summer. Maybelle got several limbs broken, but we always glued her up again, and patched and mended the occasional disconnected body part.*

  My doll sat off to the side while I read book after book, for I was really growing out of doll-playing, even if not out of doll-wanting.
I still have Rosemary, her hair is a little matted, and I wish I'd chosen a different hair color.
I wish I knew some little girl, (littler than 13) who would love to have a china doll as much as I wanted one. But all the kids I know aren't careful with their toys, and the doll would surely be doomed. I don't know people who patch their dolls, or even that don't have many already.
When I look at her I am struck with the dichotomy of what we desperately want, and what actually holds lasting meaning. I will not willingly part with the intricate, cloth dolls my sister sewed, they are precious and real in a way that only the Velveteen Rabbit could understand. Rosemary came over in a crate of shiny boxes from the Orient, and stood glassy eyed in a department store with scores of her sisters for who knows how many weeks. She reminds be of that dear, wonderful lady who touched our lives with her vivacity and enthusiasm and taught Mom how to be infectiously joyful despite the hardships life can bring in secret. As I have grown, the memory of this has helped me be brave and give cheer to others even if I sometimes don't feel it myself. She is a memory I cherish, and her generous spirit is only shown a tiny bit in the gift of the china dolls. I would remember her without Rosemary... and sometimes I think that what we want is not the point.

  It's what we can take into ourselves that mean things.

  And items can hold meanings, sometimes enough to warrant keeping them, sometimes not as much as we think.
  (*Sidenote: Poor Maybelle actually had several severe problems... including stuffing issues to the point where she couldn't sit straight. So our brother did surgery on her, un-stitching her seam, taking out the offending material, and stitching her back up. It was quite the spectator event!)


ebookauthor said...

Oh Elizabeth, this touched my heart. I'm a life-time doll collector. I still have my childhood dolls. My mother saved them for me when I left home. I have them now. they bring back many memories, far beyond the dolls themselves of the happy times spent playing with them and good times with my grandmother, learning to sew for the tiny bodies. I still do that. Thanks for the memory.

E. Kaiser Writes said...

Thanks, Connie! I appreciate your feedback!
Yes, material things can carry such a huge amount of meaning that is way beyond what they actually are. :-)
Memories are pretty precious things, always.

Hannah Scheele said...

I LOVE this post! You should do more like it. It totally brings back being a kid to me...we had a similar experience with porcelain dolls. I still remember being given one for Christmas when I was little and never playing with it till I was really too old to have much fun with it--but she's a beauty! Her name is Violet and her dress is a stunning color combo of blue and purple.

Anonymous said...

Hi Elizabeth, I know you don't get caught in the mess that is called Christmas, but I thought I would wish you a lovely snow season. I hope you and family are tucked away warm and content.

E. Kaiser Writes said...

Glad you liked it, Hannah! Yes, the porcelain dolls have something alluring in their very fragility, I think. :-)

Thanks, BB! I appreciate the thought! Best wishes sent your way as well, and may you and yours all stay very warm and cozy all winter long!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Elizabeth, warm thoughts make for warm hearts. So dito.

Ive been listening to the words of a Song I heard on a film called the Secret garden.
The song is called Winter Light.
You can hear it and read the words on Youtube.
I wanted to share it, because of its potent beauty. In case you had missed it.
It says sooooooo much with so few words.
I thought you might enjoy this aspect of it. Sarah Brightman sings it but it was written for Linda Ronstadt. Its OK, its not junk music or rock and roll.
See what you think of how few words are used to say so much.
I love it.

E. Kaiser Writes said...

Hello again, BB! Thanks for the tip... that is a beautiful song! After you mentioned it, I was able to find it on You-tube, and I recognized it from the Secret Garden film. I actually remember one afternoon after the rest of the family had watched that movie, I sat on the floor and played that part over and over just to catch the song again.
Now I know it's name! Thanks!
It is a gorgeous melody.