Right after finishing GISH, Kiri took a tumble in the hallway. She wrenched her ankle, her knee, and her hip. She cracked her head against the wall. She went camping and got vertigo. Obviously she’s under a curse. (Actually, this might explain more than a few things wrong with her…) Join her internal debate team in figuring out the cure!
It is kind of hard to write something funny about getting a diagnosis of breast cancer, but it helps if you were signed up for G.I.S.H. (W.E.S) before even a hint of trouble arose on the horizon. GISH(WES) stands for The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt (the World has Ever Known.) It may not cure cancer…but it sure cured getting the diagnosis.
If this week had a sound track, it would be Cosmo Sheldrake’s “Come Along”:
If you ever wondered what it would look like if I went off the deep end, this one’s for you.
My week of GISH started with…
A Bull Named Fu Manchu
Item #14 – No Bull About It. Ride that bull like the zen master you are.
My next genius decision took me, my autistic son, and a cousin (who made the mistake of saying, “Sure, why not?” before reading the fine print) on a very long road trip to make music at Niagara Falls. Don’t worry; she got her revenge. She had to practice the recorder in the car all the way there. I may never get those high notes out of the crevices of my brain where they are lodged.
Trip to Niagara Falls, sort of
GISH Item #30. Perform the Kansas song, Wayward Son, at a natural world wonder.
I can’t take too much credit for the performance at the falls. All the kudos go to Anna. But, we did manage to drive almost all the way there and back again in a 24-hour period. If I could do anything different, it would be to stay at the falls and give us all a better morning. But, there was more GISHING to be done!
But, as we crossed the border home, it seemed a waste not to knock out Item #166 “Love has no borders, play a game at an international border crossing.”
This required playing a game like charades which would not require crossing of the boundary nor passing any item back and forth. We were pretty punch drunk by midnight, so take our giddiness with a grain of perseverance.
Too Perfect Not To:
Most of the GISH Items were beyond my skill set–requiring a team or the ability to wing walk a bi-plane while painting the landscape below–but others seemed like I had been training for them my whole life.
Item #91–A Cairn Terrier Named Rocky. (Hint: he won’t come when you call him.)
I’m fairly sure my family is starting to become concerned about my over enthusiasm for this scavenger hunt. But they gamely play along.
I beg on Facebook and an obliging family who barely know me offer up their basement and their children (but only in an advisory capacity) to accomplish the next hunt-worthy construction. Lego Shoes!
Gish Item #3 Sounded Sooo Easy
I have so much more respect now for the ‘play’ of little boys and girls (and their parents too!) I started by sorting my blocks into piles of color to best determine what color the shoes should be made of. (It is entirely possible a person with some sort of OCD disorder shouldn’t be handed LEGOS!) Despite the excellent instruction provided by Noah and Jonathon, it took me much longer than I thought to build a pair of shoes! Honestly, this project was time and labor intensive. I will never call what people do with LEGOs silly again.
After hours of building the stupid things, it turns out my foot is too big. My mother-in-law’s feet are tiny…but her balance is a bit iffy. She nearly fell trying to walk the required three steps. So, I sent a hail mary request on Facebook. And Mary answered. My mother, Mary, to be precise…
Bouncing back and forth in activities required a lot of energy. Fortunately, I always had a handy supply of sweet relief.
As I was making this dessert-worthy entry, I did wonder if I was sending my child the right message. But, since he ignores all my good advice anyway, I decided to tackle a little foundational feng shui. Candy Man Style!
Item #61: Funderwear!
This particular item seemed a no-brainer. What could be more fun? I worried that I might have picked too obvious a selection. So, I doubled-down on my craziness.
I made both a Life Saver brassiere as well as Twinkie, Ho-Ho, and Hostess Cupcake Spanx.
My breasts were minty fresh and I could honestly say, “Eat my shorts” and be perfectly appropriate.
I highly doubt anyone else made an outfit quite like mine. Mostly because nobody would be that crazy! I needed help getting into both items. I wore a shirt and shorts underneath because I wasn’t sure there wouldn’t be a wardrobe malfunction at some point. In fact, I had to hold the pants up for the entire photoshoot. The combined weight of that many baked goods was threatening my structural integrity. And my blood sugar levels.
GISH was surprisingly touching at times.
My mother-in-law chipped in where she could before heading home to California. When an item came up that called for someone over the age of eighty, she was my go-to-gal.
Item #49 – Diorama Digressions
I’m putting the long version of the video interview here. (Most entries had to be under 14 seconds, but this one had a whopping 30 second allowance.)
After Laura related the momentous facts surrounding her favorite memory/day, I had several days to create a diorama of the events. But I dithered trying to come up with the perfect idea for how to make her item unique and personal to her and not just reflect anybody’s wedding day. So, I went to my favorite antiques store to hunt for inspiration. And I found it:
I made a calculation error in timing. The little Hugo clothespin doll was achieved simply by painting the wooden peg with acrylic paint. Which dries in 20 minutes…if your house isn’t soggy with humidity. Guess what!??
The damned peg just wouldn’t dry. It’s Tuesday night, and the mom-in-law is scheduled to catch a flight out really early on Wednesday. So we end up fudging the reveal by handing Laura her still-tacky husband to juggle while she fumbles with her box. (Insert your own joke here. No, wait. I think I’ve just made a very crude and inadvertent reference to my mother-in-law’s box. Nevermind.)
Consummate performer that she is, Laura tackled the late-night recording of her reaction to her diorama with panache and grace. It was truly a labor of love…and it’s the piece I will remember when the years pass and other things fall away.
Item #127 – Moose Call
I think this was the easiest one, overall, but the pace of filling my many obligations was starting to show.
All we had to do for Item #127 was go to a Tim Horton’s, dressed as a moose. Moose costumes aren’t that simple to come by, but headgear was. Since I was dragging a moose-sized child around with me, I just slapped a pair of antlers on him and called it good.
You may be sensing a theme by now…
I generally tried to pick things that appealed to me, or that I could do in a reasonable amount of time with some accuracy. I can make a loaf of bread crisp…but can I make it do anything else?
As it turns out, I’m not a particularly exact entomologist.
Item #79 – Bug Nuts
When invited to “make icky bugs great” I grabbed my glutinous flour and ran with the instructions to “Create a realistic-looking, oversized detailed sculpture of an underappreciated arachnid or insect out of bread…”
Done and slightly over done!
Of note: if you decide to bake black-colored bread, put the dye in the bread machine. If you try to hand-knead it, like the far dung beetle pictured above, you get mottled results.
I tended to opt for a lot of kitchen based challenges. Thinking that I had a home court advantage. But some of my efforts fell flat.
One in particular was a most spectacular failure!
Item #23 – You have something on your…everything.
This video wouldn’t be possible without the help of a really good friend who stopped by to film. If you listen, you can hear her laughing in the background as well as making salient commentary. The Best British Bake-Off this ain’t! But, I dare any of those contestants to do better. The basic instruction: bake a cake without using your hands or any measuring tools. The only implement allowed? Your face!
Face Cake Fails: Parts I and II
I probably lost points on execution, but in intent? I nailed it. I was laughing so hard throughout this enterprise, I’m surprised I didn’t snort more flour than I did.
There are two videos because the longer one (below) filled up the SD card on the camera. The first video is high-speed reformatted (above.) The one that follows should include commentary. Really, you need to hear the snarky commentary.
The cake was inedible. But the instructions were very clear. It had to be eaten by you and a loving family member. Thank goodness Alexei is so very fond of Easy Bake Oven cakes. When they are cooked better than this:
Carrot cake is my favorite dessert…so this segue shouldn’t hurt too very much.
Item #97 – So very, very orange…
Food was a definite theme for me.
The only instruction given for this was the following: See Item #97 (pictured below) only said “8554J46H+FH. You, the Carrot God, have summoned them.” I couldn’t figure out what the code stood for, so I decided to get some grease paint and hair spray and do my best.
I was ridiculously proud of the results:
It wasn’t until I went to upload my most excellent Carrot God interpretation that I figured out what the code: 855 J 46H + FH stood for. Apparently it’s a way to write global coordinates and it is somewhere in the Newport Beach Civic Center in California. (California friends and relatives, you lucked out that I didn’t figure this out in time to corral your assistance, otherwise I might have asked you to paint yourself orange and dash about with fistfuls of carrots.)
From carrots we move to espionage with one simple leap of deduction.
SO, you want to be on a CIA watch list?
Item #50 – Write a letter to the director of the CIA. How could this possibly go wrong?
All I had to do was crypto-translate a sculpture that the finest minds at spy headquarters hadn’t managed to translate. No biggie.
…and post the letter to a social media account.
…tagging the CIA so they couldn’t miss it.
If I’m audited next year, this is why. #StillGladIMailedThatLetter
What Exactly is the Point of GISH again?
While all this is going on, I have been fielding calls from various doctors’ offices and doing my best to stay on top of feeding and watering the child. During one of the ABA sessions, the tech eyes me for a while doing various goofy tasks and finally asks me why I’m doing this. I briefly explain that the registration fees for participating are used to remove landmines from farms in Laos.
Her response, “What does dressing like a carrot have to with charity? Couldn’t the money you spent on this stuff go directly there?” #She’sNotWrong
I don’t think I gave her a very satisfactory answer. Up to that point, I was doing all the fun items. The crazy ones. The slightly quirky and downright ridiculous ones. But the main purpose of GISH is to raise funds for charitable goals. And I haven’t mentioned those once!
So, I took the list and checked it twice, to find out to whom I could be nice.
So, Saturday, on the last day of GISH, and with the help of my son, I:
Made up gift baskets and visit the elderly…
We also try to do a good deed in our neighborhood while also encouraging my child toward philanthropy–not an easy concept to get across for anyone, none less a teenager with autism.
Time was starting to fly, and I decide to teach my son the importance of sharing would do for a good, concrete lesson.
My last GISHY act was to buy a tree to be planted in Kenya. I wish I could say Kenya was my intended destination, but no, it was the default option when you went to the OneTreePlanted website. From what I could see, many people made the default donation. Kenya should be nice and leafy real soon.
Doing charitable acts to participate in a scavenger hunt might seem like a waste of time and money to most people. It also feels somewhat wrong to do nice things for credit. But, this week helped to make up for getting some pretty bad news. I had fun. No one was hurt…much. And maybe, just maybe, a little good was accomplished.
And, at the end of the day…and a very long week…that’s not a bad thing.
Kudos Go To…
To all the friends who helped me along the way, thank you. I couldn’t have done it without you. I’d stop to express my gratitude personally, but it is almost 2:00 a.m. and I’m falling over exhausted. I may just sleep the next week away.
I have always wanted to be a smart person. Or, at least, to feel like I was a smart person.
I have also been suffering lately from the certainty that I am not getting any smarter. In fact, there is evidence to suggest I may be regressing and losing my faculties altogether.
In other words, I am getting dumber.
How do I know this? I tried recently to be clever and failed.
I attempted to write a post. I wanted to be witty and erudite, to create a mathematical equation quantifying the values of parenting–like something you might see on a white board on The Big Bang Theory set. I wrote for hours. I struggled. I waffled. I flailed in my efforts to write what my brain kept telling me what should be a funny post.
At the same time, I have been trying to research what kind of cell phone or carrier to switch before my iPhone dies for good. The more I read on the topic, the less sure I am that I am capable of making a rational, informed decision.
To stave off complete digital death, I switched off as many features of my ‘smart’ phone so as to conserve the battery life past a nano-second. I turned off so many functions, my phone stopped receiving voicemails and texts. As a result, my ‘smart’ phone is now a dumb phone which is holding my information hostage until I turn my data back on.
Didn’t phones used to just work before ‘data’ was invented?*
Why is a phone designed to use data to send a message anyway?**
*shouts into the abyss*
In my efforts to keep my phone running while not plugged into a recharger, I even deleted Facebook from my apps.
The entire next day I learned exactly how often I have been checking Facebook. Like, every fricking time I had a break…or had to wait in line…or stopped at a red light for more than two seconds. I wish I were kidding.
So, I’ve learned two things this week: I am not getting smarter and my phone is possibly making me dumber.
In my research for ‘smart’ terminology, I found a physics term that I feel describes my mental state:
a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.
lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.
Apparently I am suffering from a terminal case of entropy.***
Let’s just hope it’s not stupidly fatal.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*C’mon conspiracy theory junkies, give me your best explanation for why phones cost ten times as much to do half as well for less years than you’d like. And then tell me why we fall for it?
**GROUP BREAK-OUT SESSION: What exactly is DATA and why is it the new gold standard for the inequalities between the haves and the have-nots? Discuss.
***Additional proof of my stupidification is denoted by the fact that I have to use the second definition of Entropy to understand the meaning of the word.
The Image Stolen for this header comes from a site that did a much better job of actually explaining entropy–in case any of you are smarter and want to read up on it.
She didn’t know you would be so clingy, so demanding.
Such a total leech.
Sucking the life out of me.
But when you started in on my kid, that was it.
It was time for you to go.
It wasn’t easy.
You didn’t want to leave.
It was clear.
You had to die.
Stuck home on a snow day, I’m Googling ways to end you.
It wasn’t enough to get rid of you.
I had to totally erase your existence.
Clean anything you’d touched like a literal plague.
Boiling all the sheets was easy enough.
But trying to get a kid to sit still, while I tore your influence away one painstaking strand at a time?
Everything had to be examined.
All the lies and denials.
It was a total nit-picking nightmare.
I went to a specialist.
We went over everything.
Talked about how you wouldn’t let go.
How I just wanted to cut you out of my life so badly I was willing to get rid of anything you held dear.
“Just do it.” I told her. “Quick, like a band-aid. I’ll close my eyes and think of Sinead, Sean, and Shaquille. They’ve made it work for them.”
She talked me down from the nuclear option.
Getting your hair done is usually a calm, soothing experience.*
But getting rid of you was not.
With every stroke, it felt like I was being pulled in two.
As she scorched my tresses in thirty-second blasts, I visualized you frying until your little head popped.
I imagined your tiny death rattle.
And then I went home and cleaned like a woman possessed.
If you’d touched it, into the garbage, laundry, or freezer it went.
And then, I tackled my child.
It wasn’t pretty.
It wasn’t fun.
But it had to be done.
And if you ever come back into my life, I will totally do it again.
Breaking up is hard to do.
But in eleven days, after a repeat cathartic cleansing, it’ll be over.
I’ll finally be rid of you.**
Happy Lousy Valentine’s Day, you creep.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*I’ve never paid so much to have my hair done only to leave a ‘stylist’ looking more like a train wreck. Except for the time I went to high-end salon and they gave me (without my permission) some godawful cut called a ‘Rachel.’ Looking back, even this experience wasn’t that bad!
**Don’t visit us for at least two weeks to be safe.
You read this far bonus:
I found a weirdly appropriate book in French while searching for Google images to accompany this post. I couldn’t quite fit it into the above text but wanted to share it with you.
I try to remind myself of this every time I see something that my avaricious soul desires.*
But it is so very hard to be good.
What I need is a little Christmas Discipline.
I am currently enjoying a period of forced minimalism, otherwise known as being broke.
I have never budgeted. As a result, I have also never saved much money. I just let the paycheck drop into the account and spent said moolah on whatever I wanted and periodically looked to make sure I wasn’t dipping below the fill-line, so to speak, trusting that the bank will never run out of money.
But it did…for about three days.
November had five Thursdays in it.
Did you notice? I certainly didn’t.
Fun fact, our social security payment arrives on the last Thursday of the month. I auto-pay my bills electronically on or around the 25th because, usually, by then the check has hit the bank.
Unless there are five Thursdays.
Five Thursdays spells disaster with my current un-budgeted way of life. If I’m not careful, the money doesn’t quite stretch to cover the month unless I pay attention and not buy every indulgence that catches my eye.
I had no idea what a spend thrift I could be until I realized I couldn’t spend ANY money for three days.
I mean none.
I got through the days of parsimony and rue recognizing that I have some really bad habits.
It was time to enforce some strict discipline…
I looked at my love of fancy compressed curds and altered my favorite Thanksgiving side dish to omit the Grueyer and Emmenthaler cheeses.**
Turns out, I might just need a cheddar-vention.
I have some expensive, thoughtless, habits that I now need to pay attention to.
A sudden need for a french fry fix makes me commit a fast food drive by almost without thinking about it. The doctor, at least, will be happy to hear we are cutting back on our deep-fried addictions.
The road to my personal hell is paved with indulgences that would make angels weep.***
So, I’m submitting myself to some long-needed tightening of the purse-strings.
I am become an acolyte for pleasure through self-deprivation.
All books will come from the library for the foreseeable future.
We won’t mention over-priced chai lattes that you can get at Biggby’s.
And I’m going to cut back on the diet cherry coke habit, though I worry I might actually kill somebody for a taste of the sparkling poison, so be warned.
I am now faced with the consequences of life-long bad habits. I must buckle down and pay attention to my finances and make fiscally restrictive choices. Or, find another way to make income.
Which brings me to my brilliant sub-theme.
My New Year’s Resolution will be to find out which of the following jobs is the least repellent way to bring in extra cash:
Will Humiliate for Food
I once read a profile on OKCupid for a guy who was willing to pay women to come out to California, dress in appropriate costumes, and humiliate him for hard cash. I’m not entirely sure if this one wasn’t an invitation to join a sex-trade, but maybe he has Skype?
Phoning It In
Sex phone operator. In which we find out whether I can suppress the giggles long enough to achieve a quasi-sultry conclusion. Also, where exactly am I going to do this in a house full of therapy techs and my ever-present child? I’m yawning the minute it hits 8:00 pm…this will take some thought.
Lashing the Page
Or, based on what I’ve seen while Googling images for this topic, there’s an aching void waiting to be filled in the Christmas-based sadomasochism/erotica market. Now how shall I plug that hole?
With such exciting job prospects, I’ll be sure to report back I am once more swimming in something festively green…hopefully it’s money and not jello with marshmallows on a pay-per-view fetish site.
Oh, and could someone remind me in the third week of January that the month has five Thursdays? Thanks.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Which, at Christmas, means everything. My inner child is a window-shopping glutton.
***It doesn’t make angles weep–which is what I originally wrote–but then I decided the heartless bastards would just laugh for 90 degrees in their corners until it was no longer funny or acute. How obtuse!
While I was surviving the past six months, fun events still happened. They just were overshadowed by the dark cloud looming. Now that the storm has passed, everything is sunny skies…or should I say…bunny skies?
It was high noon in Bunny Town.
When trouble showed its floppy ears.
Some folks might say, he was itching for a hare-raising fight.
Others believe, the dastardly bunnies had it coming.
The lone bunny rider looked honest…honestly dangerous.
He dressed all in white…except for the mask.
Clemson Cadbury—Clem to his friends—rode into Bunny Town one fine day.
He was wanting to put up his lucky rabbit’s feet and ease his saddle sores at the only hopping joint in town:
The Rabbit Hare Saloon
The girls at the saloon were of the heart of gold variety.
They made a rabbit want to sit up and pay attention.
To push his fuzzy-tailed luck.
But Clem only had eyes for the sweet, sloe-eyed school marm who taught the A, B, C’s of being a bunny.*
His heart belonged to that fair damsel–Flory-Dory Flopsalot.
Clem would have happily laid his hat—or his heart—at Flory-Dory’s feet for her taking or stomping there upon.
But Flory-Dory’s uncle was the local sheriff and he put no faith in lone rabbits who just moseyed on through his town.
So Clem spent his lonely hours, pining for his true love, and sipping dandelion sarsaparillas at the Bunny Bar Saloon.
Until the day he tangled with the Black Bunny Banditos!
Clem didn’t know, when he entered that bar that fateful day, that a gang of hardened thugs were also looking to play.
They were bad bunnies with bad attitudes.
And they didn’t care what kind of mask a bunny hid behind.
Clem was nursing a carrot-infused herbal tonic and the saloon honey-bunnies were taking his orders—hopping to get whatever he wanted.
The three black-hearted bunny banditos entered the saloon.
Their tail spurs jingled as they hopped.
Bippity tried to snag his favorite coquette–Odette.
But Odette was batting her lashes at Clem.
Boppity yelled for his bunnymondaine—but Desbegonia had no time for the ruff-necked, lop-eared cur.
No, Desbegonia was dancing to and fro, making Clem watch her as she’d go.
Then Beauregard stepped through the door and stood there watching a minute or more.
He waited. He wanted. But his flowery filly—Daffydilly—was not to be found.
Except, wherever Clem was around!
Daffydilly sang sweet serenades to woo her beau…
(But not the rabbit by that name, no!)
Beauregard spit out his cheroot and hollered at his boys to scoot!
“No interloping jackalope claims our pieces of fluff!” Said he.
And off behind the saloon went the three…
Clem had no clue when he stepped outside
An ambush awaited his white-tailed hide.
But Flory-Dory knew!
From her chair near the window, she’d watch and sigh, whenever the handsome buck went by.
So, when the school marm saw her rabbit in trouble, she called for the sheriff on the double!
Sheriff “Lefty” Cottontail.**
Sheriff Cottontail was none to keen to confront the three rapscallions—despite their lawless ways.
He was a laid-back lawman who let other people’s bullets do the talking.
But Flory-Dory wasn’t letting her lily-livered uncle get away with that!
“I’ll take on those ne’er-do-wells myself, iffn I have to!” Said Flory-Dory.
If she’dve had a spittoon nearby, she’dve spat in it for emphasis.
With this incentive, Sheriff Cottontail, decides it’s better to fight like a rabbit, than to be shown up as all fluff and no tail.
He hops to Clem’s side in the nick of time.
Sheriff Lefty (pictured right) and Clem
The dastardly Coney Brothers had trussed Clem up in baling wire and dangled him by his stubby tail over a vat of sugar syrup.
“We’re gonna dunk you neck-deep in this here sassafras barrel.” Piebald Beau promised Clem. “When they find your sorry sack of fur, all will think that you fell in to get a drink.”
Then in flopped the Sheriff, long and fat, and squashed those Coney brothers flat!
It warn’t no time at all before the bad bunny brothers were rounded up and thrown into the hoosegow.***
But Sheriff Cottontail knew, it wouldn’t be long before those bunnies were back bearing a grudge.
The Black-Hearted Bunny Banditos
So the sheriff hired his niece to be his stalwart deputy!
Flory-Dory rescued her hero from a sticky fate and cut him free.
Clem caught Flory-Dory up in his fuzzy embrace and they nuzzled noses.
It was quite the scandal.
And into the sunset, as he rode away, Clemson swore that he’d come back and marry that gal someday!
Asterisk Bedazzled Bunnynotes:
*The bunny head mistress taught the children their A.B.C’s: Always. Bring. Carrots.
**Sheriff Lefty was so named because, if you weren’t careful, he’d let himself get left behind in a gunfight.
***Hoosegow—to all you city slickers out there—is the clink, the slammer, the yard, the pen or, as it is otherwise known, jail.
_____________You read this far bonus____________________
Honestly, I’ve never had so much fun as writing this post.
Here’s a few oddities I discovered while looking for bunny-related miscellany:
Bunny Cowboy Soundtrack performed by Neptune Bunny here:
I won’t even try to explain this. You just have to watch it to believe it.
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.
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.
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.
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.**
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.
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.
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.***
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.
“I’ll see if I can find anything in my records to help identify her.” Patricia promises.
“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.
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.
Mary, age 8 or 9, in her Beer Barrel Polka outfit.
“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.
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:
I think you will agree, you wouldn’t recognize her from her former self!