Monthly Archives: October 2018

Beheaded and Bedraggled: Dismembered Dolls of a Bygone Childhood

Amy was my first.

Her blond, twisted curls were fixed and her little pink-and-white gingham dress was stiff and yellowed with age.  By the time she finally became mine, she was twenty-seven years old. Pretty ancient for a doll.  And, by ten, I was old enough to know she wasn’t to be played with.

So, until I reached my first decade, I enacted my primal childhood dramas on my Barbie and baby dolls instead.*

There was one other doll who bore the brunt of little girl adventures in our extended family: Grandma Laura’s walking doll.

Grandma Doll
Because my grandmother only had sons, this doll missed an entire generation of torture. Either that, or she wisely hid in a closet until they were out of the home.

 

This doll was an antique, but, she was never treated like one. Built with a stiff cardboard body with wooden limbs, she was meant to be played with.

If she ever had a name, I never knew it. She was just called ‘the walking doll’ because she had creaky hinges at her knees which caused the leg to swing back and then forward as you walked behind her.

Doll Face 2

She sat in a chair in my grandparents’ living room, waiting for one of the grandchildren to come play with her. She was much loved and it showed.

The walking doll’s hands were worn to indistinct nubs and the plastic along her arms was cracked or missing. At one point, someone loved all the hair off of her.

 

My grandmother must have cut down a wig to cover her bald head.  The walking doll’s new style was choppy, black speckled with grey, and in no way resembled a typical baby doll. I never knew she had any other hair color.

Until I took her to the doll hospital that is.

 

PattiAnn 2
A seriously cute profession!

It was always my intention to take good care of my bequests, but time, family expansion and inattention takes a toll on the mechanics of people and toys.

Many years ago, Amy’s rubber band broke, leaving her looking much like an extra special victim from a crime drama.**

IMG_1606
“She was found, headless and half-naked, wearing one shoe and a worn pair of pantaloons!”  Law & Order: Doll Division

I found Patricia Buckert after a quick search online and contacted her to see if she could recover my long-time companions from the benign neglect of thirty-some years in storage.

A professional with certification through the Doll Artisan Guild, Patricia studied at Seeley’s in Canada and traveled to West Virginia to learn advanced secrets of doll restoration. Patti Ann’s Teddy Bears and Dollies provides a rare service—not just doll repair—it’s more like finding doll nirvana.

When she talks about the dolls she’s made—with kiln baked porcelain crafted and painted by hand—you know you’ve found a kindred spirit.

Her doll hospital is located in Oshtemo, MI along Stadium Drive in a small, green house.

Even with the big white sign out front, you might miss it. But once you’ve entered, you’d never forget it.

Doll Vignette
She sits more ladylike than I have ever been or will ever be.

The front room is overflowing with dolls, prams, strollers, a crib filled with wide-eyed babydolls, and shelves where lady-like figures pose, en deshabille, with porcelain-dipped lace to trace their décolletage. Nearby, a wire carousel houses miniature accessories: shoes, socks, and delicate unmentionables with froths of lace enough to choke a Clydesdale.

This dolly sanctum sanctorum is a veritable paradise for your inner child.

Doll Cupboard
I have Victorian curio cabinet envy. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

When I show her Amy, Patricia immediately recognizes her as one of the series of Little Women dolls created by Madame Alexander. But she’s entirely surprised by her second patient.

“I’ve never seen a doll quite like this before.” Patricia says, as I place the doll on her counter.

“She’s been in the family for a long time. She first belonged to my grandmother.” I explain.

As I remove the doll’s outer garments, her poor condition is revealed. A spring falls off her leg as I remove her bloomers.***

Doll Profile

We also learn that originally, she was a redhead, similar to my grandmother’s brunette shade…that she kept in a bottle under her bathroom vanity.

Doll full-length
I’d never seen her naked before. She looked very vulnerable. I felt a bit like a voyeur, to be honest.

“I’ll see if I can find anything in my records to help identify her.” Patricia promises.

She crowed in a later email with a link to a Doll Reference website:

 

 

“Look what I found!  As I was going over your doll I found the Babs marking.  This helped me identify it.” 

According to the site linked, the Babs Walking Doll was made between 1917 and 1921 by the Babs Manufacturing Corp. Since my grandmother was born in 1909, she was between eight and ten years of  age when she was given her.  Knowing my doll is over a hundred years old, makes me treasurer her even more. But, she was in pretty sad shape.

I asked Patricia to do what she could to recover her lost charms. This no doubt destroyed whatever value the doll might have possessed, but, I would never sell her and I felt that she deserved her own personal make-over.

It took a lot longer than I would have imagined. But I suspect you don’t undo a century of aging in a day.

Amy came home first.

Amy 1
If you look carefully, you might recognize where her ‘new’ apron came from!

You can’t see it in this photo, but she now has two satin shoes covering her feet.  The mar on her cheek is gone and, with restringing and repairs to the dress, she looks as good as new.

I asked my mom if each of her sisters had their own doll from the series.

She seemed surprised to learn there were other dolls.

 

at

“Oh, yes. She is one of the daughters from the March family, from the book Little Women?” I tell her. “Did you read it?”

“Oh, well, I’ve seen the movie.” Mom says. “But no, I was the only one who got a doll like this.”

“I thought, because you were one of four sisters and the book is about four sisters, maybe you each got one to represent your relationships.” I say. “But you were the oldest, and that would make you the ‘Meg’ doll instead of ‘Amy’ who is the youngest of the March sisters.”

“I really don’t remember that much about the story.” Mom admits. “But I had blond hair like this as a girl.”

It is always a shock to find someone doesn’t cherish the same books you do. I love Little Women. But if I were to pick a March sister, I would be Jo. Brave, adventurous Jo who writes and dramatizes her life. That, and the fact she has brown hair, just like me.

I finally got to pick up Grandma Laura’s walking doll this fall. I then learned that PattiAnn’s is closing; after so many years spent learning the art of doll craft, Patricia is retiring.

 

“Is this because people aren’t buying dolls as much?” I ask.

“Yes, partly. Children just don’t play with dolls the way they used to, not with the invention of iPads and electronic games.” Patricia sighs.

PattiAnn Favorite

I look around and have to ask, “What will happen to all of this?”

“I’ll be selling it off as I close-up. You can check my Facebook website for details of the upcoming sales.”

 

I have my camera with me and I ask her if I might take a picture of her with a doll, “Which is your favorite?”

“Oh, all my real favorites are back at home, packed up for the move.” She looks around for a bit and then picks up a laughing babydoll. “But, I made this one for my mother before she passed away. So, I’ll be keeping her.”

 

We keep what matters to us. I don’t know if I would have a doll collection if it had not been for the one’s given to me. I have quite a few. My first years of independence during my tour in the Army were incongruously spent collecting dolls while stationed overseas. But those tales will have to wait for another day.

For now, I will be grateful I got my dolls repaired by someone qualified in a craft that is dying out.

And for those of you who are interested in the results, here is my walking doll, in her new dress cut down from a dress my mother made me:

Elspeth 3
Hereafter, she shall be named: ELSPETH 

I think you will agree, you wouldn’t recognize her from her former self!

If you love dolls too, check out Patti Ann’s Teddy Bears & Dollies before it’s gone for good.

And if anyone wants to get me a complete set of Madame Alexander dolls, I found an autographed collection available at Theriault’s (self-described dollmasters) website:

Complete Little Women Set
A steal at $1,900.

 

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Based on my tendency to beat my dolls with a broomstick at the slightest imaginary infractions, I’m surprised I ever became a mother.

**You’d be astonished how many times creepy dolls come up in connection with serial killers on those cop dramas!

***Seeing as my own hip is held together with pins, I am now convinced my panties are all that is keeping my leg attached!

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Pier Review

IMG_2896
Anemic sun halo captured at Holland State Beach, July 19, 2018

 

Walking the public pier along the Holland State Beach allows one to appreciate both an exercise in free speech and the quasi-felonious joys of graffiti expressionism.

I have never been so brave or confident in what I had to say that I was willing to risk a $250 fine and possible jail time to tag a public edifice in order to say it.*

Vandalism is, at the very least, a misdemeanor offense, but what I want to know is…is it art?

And if it is art, what is it saying?

Based on my hour spent cataloging this year’s liberal art tributes on the rusting canvas of the masses, the message depends on the viewer:

Positivity Abounds:

Travooo
Travooo captures the elusive qualities of LOVE  in swirling suggestions while boldly stating that it is all underscored by the balance to be found in the harmony of Yin and Yang.

 

If you look hard enough, you can find answers.

Although….you may also be left wondering what the question was.

Thoughts from Danny Duncan!

Danny thinks “It’s fine!”

But, he scrawled his sentiments in a tucked away place on an overhead pipe, so I suspect he’s playing it cool.

I Think It's Fine Danny Duncan
I bet Danny knows where the milk is!

 

Some people put themselves out there, courting ridicule…possibly unaware that a Tinder Date may be using a pseudonym.

Steve and Edelweiss Sipipill 4 Ever
If you know of anyone actually named Edelweiss, I will retract my skepticism.

Everyone has an opinion…whether that opinion is worth scrawling on a pier support is in the eye of the beholder.

Dude She s hot
Watch out, Amos Kiks.Palmbos, you have an admirer. 

Dreams are apparently dictated with impermanent ink scrawled on a blue-green background and will melt with time and the coming rains.

This is What Dreams are Made Of
Actually, this was one of my favorites…googly eyed smiley face not withstanding.

Lacking the words to express their deeper emotions, some fall back on a classic:

!!!HIGH 5!!! 

Friends slap high fives (or low ones) wherever they can.

Hands and Names
The Green Hand Gang numbers at least five!

 

Some HIGH FIVES bury the headline:

img_2921.jpg
Amos Kiks.Palmb Strikes again.  

OTHER HIGH FIVES come with best wishes from ON HIGH!

IMG_2931
Apparently the Green Hand Gang are followers of the BIG PINK HAND IN THE SKY.

 

Emotions run high…leaving some confused…knotting their hair with suspense.

Will Jeffrey or Won’t Jeffrey?

Will Jeffrey or Wont He
This strange smokestack-like object serves no discernible purpose. Does someone out there know what this does?

 

Perhaps the message echoes an earlier time—a plea for Peace, Love and Hope symbolized by a badly divided pie chart?

Hope
All you need is a Sharpie marker and an earnest sentiment and the sky is your oyster.

The VEGANS were a bit demanding and psychedelically so:

IMG_2912
Spred Luv…and dictionaries!
Go Vegan - Hallucination
Cock–the other white meat. Now comes in vegan flavor. (This is where we find out who really reads the subtitles.)

 

Some pier polluters promote poignant pleas:

Kiki Do U Luv Me
Ignore the scrawled ‘Anus’ overhead. Focus on the question, Kiki!

Perhaps what you take from the message boardwalk is only that which you brought with you?***

For example.

FORSOOTH, FIE, ALAS

One word scrawled among the masses stood out. I was astounded that classics such as Shakespearean language describing a two-week time frame have made it to modern vernacular (even if the spelling hadn’t):

Fortnite

Then, later, during a rare session of live tv watching, I was bombarded by a commercial which dispelled my illusions. (And possibly also my allusions.)

I almost despaired to have lost a belabored delusion of the persistence of language.

 

But then, after watching King Lear drop bodies at Grand Valley State University, I decided that Fortnite actually is a modern variant of Shakespearean storytelling—if only Shakespeare had lived in the age of the rocket launcher.


GOOGLE FAILED ME. WHEN I TRIED SEARCHING THE TERM ‘SHAKESPEARE’ AND ‘ROCKET LAUNCHER’ I GOT AN ARTICLE FOR THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY LAUNCHING A NEW VEGAN MENU:

I TOLD YOU THOSE VEGANS WERE PUSHY!

It seemed an obvious thing to me that there should be an image of Shakespeare with a rocket launcher…SO I MADE ONE:

Shakespeare with Rocket Launcher
I make judgments about people writing graffiti but, apparently, I have no problem stealing copyrighted images to abuse my own artistic license.
Z’WOUNDS…that was a long way to go for a laugh.
Now, back to the boardwalk…

IMG_2967
Lost in a Sunset

If art is a medium of expression, then I believe those who congregate at the water’s edge to exchange selfies and tag nearby crumbling infrastructure are at least trying to get a message out.

Or, maybe they are all just succumbing to…

Pier Pressure
I wanted this for my title, but that seemed like cheating.

Maybe this isn’t art.

But I say, “Let he who is without talent, shut the hell up.”

And let it be what it is.

Breathless

Endless

Speechless

Timeless

*-*-*

THE BEST
Artist Face
I too will be “Forever Faffi”

The need to express ourselves, our souls, may be the most human characteristic.

That we do it in a destructive, transitory medium is even more so.

Will words someday become anachronisms?

After digital communication leaps past verbal utterances to an all-emoticon communication system—how will we express nuanced emotions?

The phrase a “picture is worth a thousand words” takes on a scary new meaning when all you have is a demented smiley face to look at.

CREEPY SMILEY FACE
Be grateful it’s not an eggplant.

Until that day, cherish words, however they are conveyed.

Whatever cryptic message they share may be just for you!

Maybe the mystic words will heal what is broken. 

Release what is hidden.

Find what is lost!

OR MAYBE NOT…

Maybe a body just needs to scream into the void and hope that someone, somewhere, is listening:

IMG_2898
I’m sorry?

 

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*I vandalize the internet from the safety of my blog instead.

**The internet laws have not yet caught up with the violations of free speech rampant in the digital stratospheres. When I become dictator of the universe, trolls will be hunted for sport.

***I suspect I’m stealing this line from Yoda. Or Harry Potter. A writer somewhere is feeling a sharp pang of plagiarism.