Louise Jensen

First, let me clarify the title of my story. You might think they are my words, but rather, my mother wrote them on a scrap of paper I found in a box of things I inherited from her estate. My mother, Jessie Adele was a collector of dolls, stuffed animals, and other interesting items. Her collecting career began after I was an adult and no longer really a part of her life.

With several years' perspective, I realize that I never really knew what made my mother tick. She was a difficult person to get close to, preferring to have short conversations or, in my case, dashing off a quick note and posting it to my current residence - wherever that might have been. As the years unfolded, from the late 70's until her death in 1998, dolls became the passion of her life. Jessie grew into an articulate and knowledgeable doll collector, known and loved by many in Southwestern Michigan.

During most of those collecting years I lived a distance from my home town in Michigan, first living in New Jersey, then England for many years, and finally returning to New Mexico. When I visited home for my 20-year high school reunion, I spent a few days with my mother. Our 3-bedroom home was filled to the rafters with boxes and boxes of old dolls. I have only a vague memory of what I saw at that time, and did not appreciate the significance of the collection that occupied my former home.

Jessie started her collecting by visiting the Salvation Army and St. Vincent DePaul shops in her area. In the early days, no one was collecting so she had lots of fun checking through any dolls that the volunteers would put back for her. She developed many friendships because she was quite a character and fun to talk to - so in the early 1980's when it became all the rage to collect old dolls, she had allies that helped her in finding interesting specimens. As doll dealers frequented the shops more and more, they were not given the special privileges that Jessie enjoyed.

After Jessie's death, I re-read letters I had received over the years. In so doing, I suddenly became aware that much of her time was spent going to doll shows and antique shops. Many of letters indicated that she was "off for the day to such-and-such doll show." What is so amazing is that each and every doll in the collection had some endearing character - Jessie took the time to rescue someone's beloved friend and take it into her home.

So, this is the first of a short series of stories I want to share with visitors to Sowatzka's Doll Story page. There are many of you out there who are like my mother - or know a friend or relative like Jessie: of unique and interesting character, a collector of happy memories from another person's childhood. A person able to recognize somebody else's dear old friend - who might gladly divulge those memories, if only dolls could talk.