Last spring I told T. a made-up story, about a little girl who had no toys, and who made a doll for herself. For some reason, she was enchanted by this story, and I promptly made a sock doll for her, which she loved, and carried around for awhile until the hair fell off.
The big summer project for us was to make another doll--this time out of cloth. T. named her Dixie, and she carried her around for awhile until Dixie began to disintegrate (my sewing skills are not all that). Now, she sits slumped in a white basket in T.'s room, where she can watch the goings-on without worrying about the state of her fine, yellow hair. But when I look at Dixie, on my way to hanging up T.'s clothes in her closet, or tidying her room, I smile at her. I'll always remember T.'s excitement as we made her, and how big and loving T.'s own eyes were when she first held a completed doll, and she saw plain cloth and stuffing and synthetic hair strands all come together to create something so charming.
One of T.'s favorite books ever is one she got from her Aunt E. (who knows her neice well and picks the best possible books for her) is Fanny, by Holly Hobbie. It's a book about a little girl who makes her very own doll, her solution to not having the gaudy Connie dolls all her friends have (they seem to be the equivalent of those Bratz dolls, which I find completely un-charming). T. loves the book, and I love the message behind it: that things we make ourselves are sometimes more wonderful and special than those bought in stores.
Yesterday T. brought this book home from her school library, and I fell in love with it. The story is about a Jamaican mother who tells her own daughter, who is sick in bed with a cold, about her own childhood dolls. She and her friends made rag dolls, but envied the store-bought dolls--the "chalk" dolls. The little girl listens, enthralled by the magic of these simple childhood treasures, and her mother's stories. She has lots of toys and dolls, but still finds the simple, handmade things more appealing. At the end of the story she begs her mother to make a doll with her. "But you have so many dolls!" Her mother tells her, laughing.
When I look around T.'s room I see that she, also, has a lot of dolls--too many, perhaps. There are American Girl dolls, and her collection of loose-limbed baby dolls, and her stuffed Madeline doll, and even an old doll that once had been mine. There are stories that go with each doll, of course, and I can see myself, years from now, remembering the stories; maybe T. will remember her stories, or the same ones. Maybe she'll share them one day with her own child.
But I'll always have a special place in my heart for Dixie.