My mom made the doll clothes. I learned to sew by making doll clothes. Some of my creations are vivid in my memory. I made Pollyanna pink pedal pushers. I figured out how to sew the legs properly, and sewed tiny little stitches in red thread making the hem decorative. Grandma and Mom were amazed at my tiny, even stitches. A quilter was born. As an adult, it was my joy and delight to sew outfits for my real children. And yes, I’m a quilter.
My little table expanded by adding cardboard boxes so I could seat additional dolls, or when friends came to play. Always room for one more. I didn’t know I was practicing for my future. Mr. Rogers was right, you know: Play is the important work of childhood.
Tommy doll was dropped in Grandpa’s boat and broke his head. He went to the doll hospital in Ypsilanti. I kept prayer vigil and worried every moment he was gone. I was a mom and that’s what they do.
Watching my aunt bathe my baby cousins, I learned to handle my slippery dolls in the kitchen sink and bathe them with loving care. I had a collection of doll beds and cradles. Mom taught me to make a doll bed from a tomato basket. My little black china doll named Candy slept in a cradle I made from a Quaker Oatmeal box. In later years I made these as gifts for nieces and daughters. When Grandma taught me to quilt, each doll had one!
I also loved paper dolls and had a huge assortment. I could buy a book of paper dolls for a dime. I kept them organized between the pages of a Sears catalogue. That catalogue was also the source of new homemade paper dolls and their clothes and furniture, cut from the pages. (You might remember I made 200 paper doll bookmarks this year for my book promotion.) I just can’t relate to children who are bored.
In Blue- Eyed Doll I become the voice of Ruth Mary Bradley who loves the doll Isabella. This historical fiction is about a major event in this country in 1927. If I’d been alive then I would have been Ruth Mary! I had no trouble at all getting into my protagonist’s head; I was there already.
The doll I’m thinking about this week is Mary Hartline, purchased with cereal box tops. Did every doll lover of the 50s have one? Mary Hartline led the Big Top Circus Parade every Saturday morning on TV. How I envied her “platinum” hair. I had curly, dark hair. Lots of it. Everywhere. She had sleek, platinum hair in a perfect pageboy.
When I proofed my new author headshots this week I realized I’d been practicing for this moment, too: I don’t have white hair. I have Mary Hartline Platinum! Yes, folks, I’m platinum. I feel younger already. I hope Santa will bring me a doll for Christmas.