So I have to ask: Are there any dolls on your Christmas-buying or -making list this year? I’m wondering because — as I troll websites and ogle, as I do every year, things I might have wish-listed as a girl – I’ve realized that my very favorite present to give this time of year is… a doll.
Admittedly it’s not the kind of gift you can give everybody (or most anybody!) on your list. And — big sigh — my three girls are outgrowing their doll years. But when you have the right recipient, and (this is key) you’re a “doll girl” yourself, like me – why there’s nothing more fun to give.
Dolls can be so much to a girl: Confidant, role model, co-conspirator, pal, loved one to nurture, loved one to nurture you. It’s a real shame kids think they want to abandon them earlier and earlier.
I was never much of a baby-doll doll girl. (Although today I can’t resist sniffing those vanilla scented Corolle babies.) My own #1 dolls were my two Barbies, April and June. April Patterson (a Twist-‘n-Turn with long blonde hair) was the mom to all the dozens of my other, shorter dolls, from Skipper and Pepper down to the petite, heavily eye-shadowed Dawn dolls and myriad Liddle Kiddles (the Polly Pockets of their day).
June Peterson, on the other hand, ran the Tinytown Dress Shop (all the doll clothes my godmother sewed for me, in two stand-up cases) and the Big Tree Ranch (my Breyer horse collection, stabled under the Christmas tree). June, who had a sleek black pageboy and was partial to Barbie jeans, was the permanent fiancé, never wife, of Brad Bradshaw, my sister’s Ken doll.
(April, sadly, was married to Tag, large molded-plastic dog who permanently stood on his hind legs, giving him a vaguely human appearance – very vaguely – but the requisite height. When we went to play at my cousin Jennifer’s, however, Tag was ditched for her brother’s G.I. Joe – shorter than Barbie but infinitely more masculine.)
One mother, one working woman – clearly I didn’t have any role models combining both roles growing up. (I didn’t!)
My godmother, Auntie Helen, was my “supplier,” clearly a doll-girl herself. A certified “doll doctor,” she rehabbed dirty, broken ones and gave many to my sister and I. She handsewed teensy snaps on fabulous doll ballgowns. She also made adorable stuffed dolls with big eyes and fat yarn curls. One sat on my bed when I lived in a hotel for women in New York City in my early 20s! Alas, I’m moving and many of these old favorites have been packed up, or I’d show them to you. (June, my working-woman Barbie, usually perches on a shelf in my office in my childhood idea of her “ranch clothes” – a felt poke bonnet, jeans, and a gingham apron, all by Auntie Helen).
Having three girls has been an excuse to buy all the dolls of my heart’s desire. Here’s Eleanor’s Madame Alexander collection, which her Mima began and I try to expand each year (mostly by scouring eBay)… a “Scarlett O’Hara” the year she discovered Gone With the Wind… a sweet “Monkeying Around” Wendy honoring our shared love of sock monkeys.
Another year, I found a close-out on these lovely dolls sold by the defunct web company iDoils. They were American-Girl-doll sized although leaner, and each cost $20 with a bundle of clothes tossed in free!:
Here’s next-in-line Margaret with “Love Toy,” the blanket-doll she carried everywhere for years (and literally loved them to bits – like the TV “Lassie” played by many dogs, there were about six Love Toys, as I bought replacements or my mom made them when the previous version disintegrated):
And finally baby-loving “baby” Page (now 10), holding the gingerbread baby I pull out every year, along with a Christmas rag doll and a big stuffed Santa. (Used to be hard to pull this doll away from them when I put decorations away each year, though I’m glad I thought to preserve it.)
But despite these kid pix, this is not a post about children, really. I think I mostly buy so many dolls because they make me happy! Try it! Besides the obvious – little girls – you can bestow a doll on a surprising range of happy recipients:
* An expectant mom (if she knows she’s having a girl)… a store manager once talked me into a gorgeous Madame Alexander baby in a christening gown to give to my yet-unborn child at “her” christening – and I didn’t even know the baby’s sex yet!
* A soon-to-be big brother and or sister (make it a baby doll, natch).
* Any girl at heart.
What girlfriend could resist one you made yourself — or that looks like you might have if you had the time and talent, like these MaryJane dolls
Finally, here’s a parting shot from a few Christmasses ago, the girls’ Santa loot. Mrs. Claus must be a doll-girl, too! Notice the Dorothy doll, the wooden dollhouse and family, the Corolle baby, the Heidi doll next to the Heidi book, and not one but two doll books: Tasha Tudor’s The Doll’s Christmas, and The Doll’s House by Rumer Godden. All highly recommended presents, btw!
Now, shhhh, I have to go and buy one more perfect doll I just found for the collection of a certain not-so-little girl on my list…