What is it about dolls and flooding that seem to go hand-in-hand in my life? Longstanding readers of this blog might recall when my basement was flooded more than a year ago and my Titanic doll was launched to float facedown in the murky, rising tides.
Now we were visited by Hurricane Irene, and that houseguest did not act like a lady at all. Like an angry, bombastic toddler, she rushed through my hometown, leaving branches and trees and power lines in her wake. My family and I are among the 500,000 New Jerseyites who lost power. I must tell you that living like a frontier woman is not what it’s cracked up to be.
So far, going 72 hours without electricity, and counting, is not a whole lot of fun. Next time I watch “Oklahoma” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (please, I need to have my cable restored), I will have a newfound appreciation for those square-dancing, gingham-wearing misses. I’ve been sans lightbulbs for three days and I have reverted to near deserted-island appearance. (And I’m not talking about sultry Brooke Shields in “Blue Lagoon.” I mean, I’m disheveled, grimy, and grumpy.)
Wondering if there will ever be light at the end of this tunnel, I am contemplating heading to my nephew’s home in nearby Pennsylvania. He has electricity, mold-free living space, Internet service, and television. It sounds like the Promised Land to me! When I talked to my children about our de-camping from New Jersey and hitting the road, they immediately started to chat about what they needed to pack.
With nary a mention of socks, undershirts, or pajamas, they talked animatedly about which toys they would bring. Their little cousins in PA are under 4 years old, so my kids are cautious about bringing games that have tiny, scattered pieces. They don’t want their cousins to choke on a tiny Lego wand or eyeball. So, most of the decisions have been about how many “life-size” dinosaurs can be crammed into a duffel bag, or which board games can be played by a pre-K playmate.
Then my daughter, who is 6, turned to me and asked, “Which doll are you going to bring with you, Mommy?”
That set me back on my heels. What doll, indeed?
Back in the 1990s, there were a lot of articles about travel dolls—dolls that accompanied their owners on trips across the States, flew to other continents, and posed in front of landmarks near and far.
It was an interesting concept: adult women and some men (you know I mean YOU, Cameron) packing their personal effects and making sure to include a doll among the unmentionables. As a matter of fact, the travel doll might have been the most “unmentionable” item of all.
I envision a more G-rated version of the classic Austin Powers airport scene. You know, the one where the super spy is detained by an overeager customs agent who relentlessly interrogates him about the embarrassing Swedish penis pump found in his luggage. (Austin denies knowledge of the tool, even though he has been caught red-handed with a personal endorsement on the side of the very box!)
I kind of cringe when I imagine being asked by Homeland Security why there is a lifelike baby doll or a haute couture fashion maven swaddled beneath my pantyhose. (“Um, I don’t like to sleep alone?” or “I am trying to get a Travelocity Gnome thing going on a smaller scale.”)
However, this trek to Pennsylvania doesn’t involve aircraft or airport screeners, so I can tuck away a travel companion without fear of judgment or recriminations.
So, what doll would I take when I flee my house to set up a home base elsewhere?
Better question: why?
I’m not going to a balmy, tropical location, where it will be a hoot to pose a travel doll beneath a palm tree or atop a mound of coconuts. I’m going to a neighboring state because it promises a warm shower and a chance to watch reruns of Frasier.
But my daughter has posited her question so sincerely, and she seems to want an answer. She has winnowed down her stuffed animal kingdom to just two to take with her on the road (“Lambie,” a lamb, and “Cat,” a cat).
So, I feel like I am being asked to solve the riddle of the Sphinx or the classic short story cliffhanger “The Lady or the Tiger?”
Which doll will I tell her I am going to bring?
And then, of course, it comes to me with brilliant clarity.
“I’m taking the Titanic Rose doll with me, Jane,” I declare. “She had such an unhappy experience with water last year. I’m sure she would be so happy to get out of here and not be reminded of the bad weather. I think some sunshine and fresh air would do her good. It will improve her mood.”
After saying that, I realize just how true that is. But not just for Rose, but for me too. Just one hour with a travel doll and I’ve already arrived at a better state of mind. Not too shabby!
I’d love to hear from you regarding your doll collection. Did you have a travel doll “back in the day”? Do you have one now? Or if you had to choose one, which would it be? I’d love to hear.