Like every other little girl I knew, I put my dolls into perilous situations that, in my case anyway, resulted in drastic hair damage and loss of limbs.
My favorite doll ended up with one leg and almost no hair. The few white-blond strands she had left by the time I’d played beauty parlor with her I fashioned into a pathetic sort of comb-over. What can I say? I played hard. I put her in harm’s way. I can only blame myself. But we had some good times, before the wheels (and the leg) fell off.
My doll had her own bed and a wardrobe that was handmade by my Aunt Faye. She was my great aunt, actually, and had no kids of her own so she used her sewing skills to make doll clothes for me and my sister to play with. She created killer wardrobes that included hats, dresses, coats and capes, underwear, and even tiny roller skates and sweaters.
These dolls could play nurse in their nurse’s uniforms, which consisted of tiny white hats and white dresses with embroidered red crosses on the front.
She made mattresses and bedding for the little doll beds that my sister and I could stack on top of each other to make bunk beds if we were playing nicely together.
We still have both sets of the doll clothes and the beds, but I have no idea what happened to the rest of the dolls. I mean, the rest of their bodies. No idea. The stuff I have now was stashed in a closet at my parents’ house for decades.
When I was six, my family moved to New York for one year. While I was falling prey to every germ known to children, I also came down with appendicitis and was rushed to the hospital. In a strange turn of events, I contracted the measles while I was in the hospital recovering from my appendectomy. Being highly contagious at that point, I was put into a room by myself. What did I want, besides being able to go home and sleep in my own bed where I wouldn’t be kept up all night by noisy nurses? I wanted my doll! But my parents decided that a bald, one-legged doll wasn’t an appropriately appointed visitor, so they promised to bring me a new doll, with all her extremities intact and a full head of hair.
And they did bring me a new doll. She had lustrous blond braids that came to her shoulders like Heidi. She had two legs, with bendable knee joints.She was the right size to wear my other doll’s clothes. Even with so many fine qualities to recommend her, I viewed this doll as an interloper, a usurper, a carpetbagger. I gave her a civil, if frosty reception when she entered my isolation room. I longed for the scraggly, hop-along doll I’d left at home.This substitute was unacceptable.
There I was, sore and sick and alone, and I wanted to have my ratty old doll with me for company. To be fair, my parents tried to get her fixed up at a doll hospital. We were both going to be in the hospital at the same time! But the doll doctors shook their heads and looked grave.They confessed that their healing capabilities were not up to the task. Just take her home, they advised. It’s out of our hands now, they said. Her fate was sealed. Maybe duct tape would work, but it wasn’t a recommended treatment in their view. Couldn’t hurt to try.
Once I was out of the hospital, I did my best to warm up to the new doll. Gradually, she got to join in the let’s pretend scenarios, but she never got the juicy parts. Those were reserved for a brave, much loved doll who still had one leg to stand on.