Arlene Fried

My doll was given to me the Christmas of 1949, when I was ten years old. She was given to me by my parents, and I was told that she was a very special doll. She was to be my very last doll, it was explained, as I was growing up and I would be getting too old to play with dolls.

I adored her from the very first moment I set my eyes upon her. I can remember that moment to this very day. I especially loved her face, she was so beautiful. Her lovely eyes, sweet little nose, and those wisps of blonde hair under her little pink hat.

I loved the way she was dressed, like an old fashioned girl, her coat with the cut flowers trimming the front, her beige leggings which encased her pink shoes. I never, never undressed her, never removed her hat - I was so afraid of ruining her.

She sat upon my bed in her place of honor from then until I left home in 1962 when I was married. I had three sons always wishing for a little girl with whom I would share my special doll. When we go visit my parents I would show my sons my doll, she sat on my bed up in my room as she had when I was home.

Then she disappeared, one day I went to visit, and she was gone. My mother said she didn't know where she was. I was devastated. I looked everywhere but she was gone.

My life went on. I divorced, met a wonderful man, and remarried. My sons went to college, married, began their own lives. Always in the back of my mind was my doll, and what had become of her?

By now, I had done some research. I deduced that she had most probably been made by a company called Lenci during the Art Deco Period, she was probably produced some time in the 1920’s. My husband offered to buy one for me. He suggested I contact a collector, and he would replace her for me. “No,” I said, “it wouldn’t be the same.” I wanted my doll. I knew it was childlike, but deep inside me I couldn't help myself.

My mother passed away in November of 1999. My dad moved in first with me, and then with my brother. We were all so numbed by her passing that we couldn't bring ourselves to empty out the home that had been our childhood home.

My father only wanted to go back to his home. So we did some renovations to the house, my brother and sister-in-law sold their home, and moved in with him to make him happy.

Up in the attic one day, I came upon a plastic bag, I opened the bag, and could not believe my eyes, There was the doll!!! I knew at once that this was the doll I had been searching for, for over forty years. She was in terrible condition, her clothes were so dirty, as was her face, her legs had come away from her body, her little under garments had rotted. I cried when I saw her, but there were tears of happiness mixed in with those tears at what had become of her.

I vowed to her that I would find someone to bring her back to the doll she once was. I began a search to find someone to undertake the restoration of my “Little Treasure.” I visited many restorers, spoke to people at doll shows but the feeling just wasn't right.

Then on the internet one day I found Gary Sowatzka. I saw pictures of his work, and read the testimonials from people who had their dolls repaired, and restored by him. I saw a picture of him, and inside me I knew he was the man who could bring her back to me as she had been.

She is there now, the people at the UPS must have thought I was crazy the day I sent her to Gary with tears in my eyes. Of course there still remains the mystery of why she was misplaced in the attic for all those years, and why my questions about her were never answered. But all that is important now is that she has been returned, and will be here for my granddaughter, and for all the little ones to follow.