Jean Pavone

When I was born in January 1945, my 39-year-old mother was recently widowed (my dad having passed on in September 1944 due to heart disease). I had a 19-year-old brother who had been drafted into the army; a 17-year-old sister who had to leave high school to work; and a 13-year-old brother, still in school, whose job was to help my Mom take care of my 2-year-old brother. It was sad times for my family, and here I come five months later amidst so much sorrow, but I have always been told that my birth kept my father’s spirit alive for my mom, my three brothers and sister.

My oldest brother was stationed in Italy at the time of my birth. World War II had just ended, and my brother and some of the soldiers from his troop were ordered to go to Lido to march in a Victory parade. While marching in the parade, his eyes caught a glimpse of a beautiful doll in a candy store window. He thought about his new baby sister, and how he would like to get that doll for her. Later that day, my brother, and some of his buddies returned to the store. She was the only doll in the whole candy store. My brother bought her and had to borrow extra money from all his buddies. He believes she was about 400,000 lyra. Now to ship her home to the U.S., my brother, and his buddies made a wooden box filled with saw dust.

Naturally, I don’t remember receiving her, but as far back as I can remember, the Italian dolly was always in my life. I loved dolls then, and I still do today. I played with this doll, a dark tan, rosy cheek, brown eyed, black haired beauty. I combed her hair until there was no hair, I did eye surgery, teeth surgery, stomach surgery, just played, and loved her to death. When she and I were 10 years old, she went to a local doll hospital in Philadelphia. They repaired some of her chips, scratches, and put on a new red wig. I was just so happy that she was looking good, that I didn’t mind the red wig, although I did cut it, and was always trying to make her look better.

When my Mom had to move from our childhood home to be closer to my sister, we (her adult children) had to clear out whatever we left, or didn’t want. I rediscovered my dolly in Mom’s cedar chest. She came home with me that day in July 1973 to my wonderful husband, and then, two toddlers.

From that day on, one son, six daughters later, my Italian dolly has been with us. My children played with her, combed her hair, did eye surgery, teeth surgery, stomach surgery (she had a crier in her tummy that would fall out, and her wig and pate came off), so the children, like their mother, were always trying to make her look better, she was much loved.

My children now are grown, and they tease me about my love for dolls. I had always wanted to have my Italian Dolly restored, and then I came across the Sowatska doll site on the web, and sent her to Wisconsin. When I received her in May 2002 fully restored and redressed, I couldn’t believe how beautiful she looked.

When I talked to my older brother about the doll, he was so happy that I had her restored, and that got him talking about his stay in Italy. My sister recalled how she and my mom named the Italian dolly, Gina, which is Italian for Jean, my name, and my father’s name. My second brother passed on, but I know he would of been so happy about this doll, because he was like Santa himself, always buying toys for all our children. My third brother said he can’t wait to see her, because he thinks he had something to do with her first eye surgery. My Mom passed on, “my bestest friend ever,” and I know she would have loved seeing our favorite gal looking so beautiful.

Yes my dolly and I have been together a long time, and she carries with her all the memories of my life. When my husband and children saw Gina looking so beautiful, they were amazed, and in no time at all, my daughters were rearranging her wig, primping her new dress, and my son was carrying her outside, and then inside the house, trying to get the perfect lighting for her photo. Then it happened, everyone was checking out the new eye mechanism, the perfect lashes, the beautiful teeth, and the new crier in her tummy. And for an instant,they were all young again playing with Gina, and the dolly seem to say, “Now this is home, now this is love.”

I just love my Italian Dolly! XOXO