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
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