Visiting the Zinn Dollhouse at the splendid museum on the hill, seems to have set off a scroll of memories about dolls. If you are a guy, you have my permission to stop reading this. After all, dolls were to girls as Lionel Trains were to guys, back in the day.
You who read my Storyteller Tales will be familiar with a place I called “Smalltown, USA,” a place in my mind, but also a quite real place snuggled in a valley, and embraced on both sides by rivers running south where they eventually join others and meet the fate of being dumped into the ocean somewhere outside of New Orleans. Like life, their trip is a long and winding one.
In the GOD (good old days, no disrespect intended), while still in the throes of tender innocence, I had a friend, name of Lou. A classmate friend of mine, her folks owned the local hatchery, a venue that gave Lou (Ann) a certain celeb status in my town. This was true particularly around Easter when baby chicks were taken home to be colored pink, green, and blue, and perhaps lavender too, though come to think of it, the chicks were given their various colors while they were still at the hatchery.
My friend (she has lived for many years in Minnesota), had a brother named Bob (Bobby to me), and last Fall during a trip from his southern town to his sister’s Minnesota town, she gifted him with a large portion of her doll collection. For many years the lavish ladies had been suspended in a kind of “dream” sleep, destined to perhaps be awakened when she turned them over to her brother. His grandkids are all girls and her grandkids are all boys, so off went the dolls to live in the south and be distributed at a later date to the aforementioned girls.
While I’m happy that the aptly named “Storybook Dolls” have been released from their boxed life, or almost released, a part of me is sad that they are leaving Lou Ann’s care. As I write I am trying to conjure their doll faces framed with lavish curls and upswept feathered hats and gowns lavished with lace and silk. Meticulously detailed down to each tiny ruffle and flurry, the wee ladies are stuck in my mind, fragile and fabulous characters from the world of storybooks. Fantasy ladies all.
I don’t recall any male chaps in the collection. One had to IMAGINE the Prince, the Knight, the King who needed a Queen…These were the days prior to Barbie needs a Ken. Perhaps though, the Storybook Doll dressed in an elaborate Spanish garb, would not really be yearning for a Matador to rescue her from solitude.
For many years, the ladies stood in a glass case in a room in my friend’s childhood home, which was in itself a kind of fairy-tale place. Visiting Lou and her ladies was way better than slurping a lime phosphate at Moore’s drugstore south a bit as the crow flies. How I yearned to have one of her dolls. Just one, but which one? There were so many. I recall I wasn’t allowed to actually touch them, a fact that made me really want to.
Eventually I did receive a Storybook Doll, perhaps it was a birthday gift. There she was…Carmen Miranda, replete with a basket of fruit (tiny bananas, pineapples, pears) perched on her turbaned head. Carmen was a knockout down to her painted lips and painted toenails peeking out from wedged sandals that only a Carmen could dance in. By then I think I had ceased being green with envy. Lou Ann had her treasures and now I had at least one of my own. Faces come and faces go but faces of dolls remain ever the same, fixed in my memory, their unblinking eyes looking to the future…