Monday, September 3, 2012

The Heirloom Doll with the Sticky-Up Hair

When my oldest son was fourteen months old, my mother-in-law gave him a doll for Christmas.  She had this stuffed doll custom-made by a woman who specialized in creating dolls that looked like real children (as much as any stuffed doll can look like a real child...which is to say, not very much).  My son's doppelganger doll did have his round cheeks, his bright blue eyes, and his shock of Billy Idol-style white-blond hair.  By the time my son got this doll from his grandma, his fine, straight, blond hair had finally grown long enough to flatten out and hang normally; but for the longest time, it stuck straight up on his head, and that was the unique feature my mother-in-law wanted to make sure the doll-maker got right.  (We got lots of comments about our firstborn baby's hair.  The most hilarious was from a sweet old lady, a stranger who stopped to admire our little towhead in the mall: she pointed out that his signature zero-gravity hair-do made him look "very alert.")

I'm not quite sure why my mother-in-law--who was far from being one of those progressive types who believe that boys should play with dolls and girls should play with trucks, so that they aren't pigeonholed according to their gender--gave my boy a doll that Christmas.  I suspect that she did it more for me than for my son.  He did give the doll several "awwwww"-inspiring hugs during that Christmas season, but then the doll was banished to the bottom of the toy basket in favor of cars, trucks, trains, and blocks.  Eventually, I accepted the reality that the doll was more of an heirloom item--a decoration--rather than a toy; so I sat it up on the dresser in the nursery, where it would stay clean and unharmed and I could enjoy looking at it.

As the years went by, and God blessed us with three more sons in quick succession, this stuffed doll began to be subjected to all kinds of abuse.  It became the "rope" in games of tug-of-war, the "ball" in games of dodge ball, and in general, something to fling, pull at, undress and laugh at.  The crazy sticky-up hair didn't help the poor thing--after all, children can be so cruel!  (And little boys, I have found, are not born with natural maternal instincts, the way little girls are.  Mine, at least, had no urge whatsoever to nurture this bullied and beleaguered doll.)   When my little hooligans ripped the doll under the armpit and the stuffing started to come out, I mended it and then did the only thing I could do: I stored the doll away until the day I had a daughter or until my boys were grown, whichever came first.  I eventually had another son, my fifth and last alas, the heirloom doll Grandma gifted to my oldest son with such love and hope never had a doting "mommy" in our house, aside from myself.

Imagine how thrilled I was to be able to pass this heirloom on to the very son it rightfully belongs to when his wife gave birth to my first grandchildren, identical twin girls, in June of 2011.  Finally, I thought, here are two little mothers who will care for this neglected doll!  So far, the twins seem to be more into stuffed animals than dolls, but I assume that at the very least, they will treat it in a more gentle manner than their daddy and his brothers did.

This morning, I took this picture of my granddaughter Bonny (the older of the twins by two minutes), who is only a month older than her daddy was when her great-grandma gave it to him that long-ago Christmas, checking out the doll.
Not surprisingly, she seems to be very its wild and crazy hair!

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