Date: 
2005
Author: 
Laurel



You've read about little girls like me in fairy tales. I was a delicate, ruffles and bows kind of child, with golden curls and long pale arms. Only, instead of being a princess or a ballerina like I'd have been had I grown up in a story book, I lived in a rough and tumble family that camped for a living and wrestled each other for entertainment. I usually ended up on the bottom of the pile.

Of the five kids in my family only one was a boy, and only one of the girls (me) liked dolls. Not that you could tell, my brother and I were the same size, so I was expected to share his clothes and his taste in toys too. His favorite toys the year I speak of were a cement mixer truck, a pounding board and a giraffe from Africa made with real hide. I liked dolls.

My Christmas request in 1957 was for a bride doll. This appalling request sent a shockwave through the family. I wonder now if I should have saved my request for Santa-at-the-department-store's ears and sealed fate, instead of telling Mother ahead of time. Children who sense they will be disappointed have a way of protecting their own interests.

My mother believed that toys were things made by children, not given by adults. Swing sets, tricycles, and inner tubes for the lake were one thing, but store bought bridal dolls tested her to the limits of patience.

She was so against dolls that every year she wrote both of my grandmothers and told them not to send any. Instead, she gave a list of things deemed more suitable - a hooded jacket one year, a pair of skates another.

Christmas morning arrived, and so did the doll - MY doll - one of three I'd own in a childhood of doll loving (or, rather, doll longing). I don't remember her name, but she was perfect; probably an 18" Ideal Miss Revlon. Her gown was made by my own mother, who disliked sewing as much as she disliked purchasing nonsense toys for impractical little girls.

I loved my bride doll with a passion that only forbidden love can give. My mother must have loved me as much, to have swallowed both her pride and her harsh notions about dolls and done this for me. But she also did her best to distract me from the one thing I wanted to play with every single day ...giving with one hand, taking with the other...

Perhaps because she was a WW2 bride who never had a proper wedding, my incessant renditions of "Here Comes the Bride" worked her last nerve. Perhaps she really was as big a feminist as she tried to convince me she was. Either way, my doll's beautiful wedding gown disappeared one day.

I quickly tracked down the culprit - I asked my mother where it went. Her answer revealed a lie. I do not know how I knew my highly principled mother was lying, but I did - and I told her so. I would not accept her protest. The dress reappeared, covered by another lie. I angrily told her I knew it to be so.

The disagreement tainted my love for my perfect doll. It tainted my love for my imperfect mother. I have vague memories of playing with the dress by itself, off the doll - surreptitiously, so she would not see. In my hurt and confusion and attempt to gain approval, I probably began playing less and less. She took a second chance. Again the dress disappeared, and this time never came back. Once again I knew, but this time she would not admit she had taken it.

The wound reopened and deepened. It was never again to be the same between us. She fell ill a few years later and died when I was 12. This caused me to spend most of my middle childhood in hospitals.

My love for dolls never waned and my love for doll clothes grew. I grew up to become a fashion designer and married late, which - I realize now that I am writing it - makes my story a rather ironic, O'Henryesque tale. Had my feminist mother recognized that my fascination was with bridal design and not about getting married, would she have supported the innocent play of a very young child a little more?