|Cradling Memories, One Doll at a Time|
|Written by Stephanie Finnegan|
|Monday, 09 January 2012 13:57|
I think one of the reasons why I am a sucker for the tinsel season is that I get to give dolls to future doll fansâwhether they grow up to be adult collectors or mommies-in-training (or both) will be a surprise waiting down the road for them and for me.
This year, I had the enormous pleasure of granting a little girl named Madeline a realistic baby doll of her own. Madeline is Korean and Filipino, and many of her baby dolls are tow-headed plastic infants, blue-eyed vinyl toddlers, and pink-cheeked Caucasian newborns. This Christmas doll was different from her other babies; this one looked Asian, the same as Maddy.
I donât know whether Maddy is aware of ethnic differences; she is almost three years old. However, her mother was certainly excited by the gift.
âYou canât find Asian baby dolls anywhere!â she declared. âThey are nonexistent! Theyâre not in any of my stores. Who made this?â
And I happily explained that Corolle did, while Maddy carted her new baby around in its matching Corolle stroller.
Maddyâs mom, Helena, grew up in the Philippines and she was raised in impoverished circumstances. Her parents had come to the United States to establish a life and left their four children behind to live with their aunt.
Helena often recounts how her childhood days were devoid of any toysâthere just wasnât any money to pay for playthings; basic foodstuff was the main concern.
However, Helena and her siblings were allowed to touch toys and interact fleetingly with dolls and balls and bears and cars. Their aunt would take them on the bus to a nearby toy store, once a month. Because of their young age, they would ride for free, which made their aunt very happy and willing to make the trek. They would walk up and down the aisles of the shop and were allowed to choose one item to carry with them as they navigated the store. After 20 or 30 minutes of orbiting the shop with their treasured toy âon loan,â their aunt would take a picture of them posing with their chosen doll or action figure. Then they would respectfully put the item back on the shelf or in its bin. The photos served as the memento of the great time they had had with their toy.
Not owning any dolls of her own, Helena is very proud that she could give her daughter a nurseryâs worth of baby dolls, but so far all of the newbies were flaxen-haired and rosy-complexioned. This new doll is something that Helena never would have envisionedânot in her childhood and not in her adulthood, either.
âDo you think Maddy knows that this baby looks more like her than her other dolls?â I asked.
Helena considered for a moment. âMaybe not right now, but in a year she will. And definitely the year after that. And certainly in her memory of today. Sheâll remember this is the Christmas when she got a doll to love and saw that she was worth loving, too.â
Now, that is a heavy realization based upon the gifting of a little girlâs plaything. What did Helena mean exactly? I thought I knew, but I asked her to please explain what that last bit of Dr. Philâspeak meant.
âWell, if you only see white baby dollsâand thatâs what you have to hold and to love and to snuggle withâyou think those dolls, and those people, are the ones you have to care about. When you donât see yourself as a dollâif you donât see yourself reflected anywhereâyou lose a sense of self. Or, you ask yourself, why arenât you pretty enough to be made into a doll? Why arenât you deserving of being a baby doll?â
I am very sympathetic to Helenaâs viewpoint, because my daughter is Asian as well. After we adopted her from China, I also went on a wild-goose chase to find babies and dolls that resembled her. Consequently, Janeâs nursery was loaded down with Mulan dressed in every available costume and accessory.
When we received her Corolle Asian baby doll from friends who ordered it online for us, we were thrilled. And we were so moved when Jane first held the doll in her arms and kissed it, proudly naming the doll âBaby,â and then re-christening it âBaby Jane.â
Today, Jane doesnât play that much with âBaby Jane,â but the doll has a place of honor in her bedroom, sitting majestically in its mini high chair.
After Maddy got her special doll, Jane ran upstairs to get her own âBaby Jane.â
The two girls waved their dolls at one another, and then Maddy toddled over to have her new baby doll hug Janeâs.
I actually felt tears form in my eyes as the two young girls embraced each other, along with their look-alike dolls.
They are so deserving of baby dolls, and of knowing that they are deserving of love.
My sentimental tears quickly formed into tears of laughter as Jane morphed her doll into a kickboxing Ultimate Fighting Champion baby. Her little âBaby Janeâ doll was shadow boxing and doing roundhouse kicks, and Maddy was trying to grab the doll and put her down for a nap.
As all of this mayhem was unfolding, Helena took out her camera and quietly took a photo.
âThis memory and this photo will be the best Christmas gift this year,â she mused.And thatâs why I scheme and dream, and plan and push, for months on end for a mere 24 hours of wonder and joy. Itâs all about those brief, brilliant Christmas moments.
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