Monday, November 07, 2005

Too old to play with dolls, pt. 1

There comes a time in every mother's life when she realizes her little girl is too old to play with dolls. I remember taking my daughter to a garage sale where Denise's daughter was selling all her Barbie clothes. We bought outfits for about twenty five cents a piece. Then in a few years, my daughter's Barbies and her clothes (she never really got that much into dolls) went into our garage sale.

This photo shows a generation of cloth dolls, two made by my mother, and one by our neighbor, Ruth Crowell, who had no children of her own. Ruth was adored by all the children in the neighborhood and died of a heart condition when she was in her 40s.
The doll on the right is "Sue" and she had a cloth brother, named "Sam." Sue used to have a white apron and a matching hat, but I think my children played with her. She has yarn hair and button eyes and her facial features are embroidered. She's probably stuffed with old nylons, which made her washable.

Sam was my brother's doll so we were probably only about 5 and 7 when Mom made them as Christmas presents, but I don't remember that he ever played with dolls. Sam had red corduroy coveralls and a matching hat. As recently as the early 70s, I had the pattern, because I in turn made a Sue and Sammy for my children.

If you know anything about dolls and could see their little faces, you would clearly see a 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s cloth doll design, only one of which (Sue) got much mileage. The doll in the pink dress with a little lace was made for me when I was in fifth grade. She is wearing home sewn, white cotton underpants. She has rust colored, yarn hair and an embroidered face. Mom had probably not noticed I was getting too old for dolls, or she saw the pattern in the Rockford Morning Star and thought it was too cute to pass up. I think she made additional copies of this doll for some church bazaars. This pattern was still around in the 70s because I remember seeing it in my mother's sewing closet, in the hall in the Lincoln Street house. This doll never had a name. And Sue only had a name because it was on the pattern.

The middle doll's name, the one made by Ruth, is "White Doll." The reason White Doll is still with us is that I never played with it--preferring and loving to death her taller companion, "Blue Doll." Blue Doll was all blue except the face was white with embroidered features. I think I loved it best because it was stuffed with down and was extremely soft. Blue Doll got so dirty from constant use and going to bed with me every night and every nap time, that my mother told me she was going to wash it, but in fact she had Ruth make me a new one and she threw away my beloved baby doll. I was never told until I was an adult. Mom lied.

Just a note about the furniture in the photo: The dollies are sitting on a dining room chair of my great-grandparents, Illinois pioneers who had traveled from Adams County, PA for a new life in Illinois around 1855. In the 1960s, Mother took it out of the attic in Franklin Grove and refinished it and learned how to cane seats (over the years they had become kitchen chairs and were painted black). The secretary next to it began its life when my husband's grandparents were newly weds. For some reason, we have a photo of the craftsman who made it (inlaid wood flowers on the top in a rose design) and I'd love to know the story, but I don't).

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