We have just undergone a heck of a month in my hometown. It was a combination of Mother Nature seeking revenge and technology breaking down simultaneously. Veteran film producer Irwin Allen, who made a mint back in the 1970s backing disaster movies (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno), could have sent a crew to my house to immortalize the rising water, the nonfunctioning sump pump, the falling tree limbs and the crashing gazebo. It was a week of flooding and drudging through ruined papers, linens, clothing and assorted stored-away keepsakes.
One of the oddest moments occurred when I first headed down to my basement and spotted ornaments and Christmas tree decorations bobbing in the water. It was like a child’s colorful swimming pool that was invitingly beckoning me in; however, the pool was my entire cellar.
As I waded through the aftermath—and I swear this is true—I noticed my Kate Winslet Titanic doll floating facedown in the frigid water. I had always kept Kate in her collectors box, and there she was, trapped behind plastic and cardboard, still secured in her multiple plastic tie-downs, swirling about in the rising tides!
I was horrified to see so many of my possessions sinking and soaking, but I had to laugh aloud at poor Kate’s fate. “How ironic,” I thought, “She played the role of the Titanic passenger so vividly, and look at how she’s meeting her end.”
Pulling her out of the water, I knew immediately that Kate’s mint-in-box (MIB) status was now kaput. The box was disintegrating around her. The beautiful silhouettes of her and Leo’s profiles that used to decorate the box were now all mashed up and mildewed. Speckled with dirt and grime, their faces looked desperately in need of a good acne scrubbing cream.
I touched the edges of the carton and it crumbled in my hands. I took Kate and her plastic protective packaging out of the box—and lo and behold—she was a little worse for wear, but I thought I could salvage her. I felt just like one of the shipwreck hunters in Titanic. I had rescued a not-removed-from-box (NRFB) doll from the icy waters of New Jersey, and I hoped to restore her.
Here is the rub, though, for all of us collectors: She was no longer MIB. She was no longer NRFB. In order to dry her and to detangle her hair, I had to break the cardinal rule of collecting. I was going to have to pry Kate from her watery plastic tomb. What was I to do?
My house is being reconstructed, so many of my dolls and such are now being stored in my basement (a no-no for good collecting stewardship), but they were all placed on shelves and in sturdy storage bins. I never, ever counted on high tides and shaky shelving that would topple some into the floods below. Now, I had my first casualty of the move. Poor, poor Kate!
I knew that her packaging was what made her special, and, to tell you the truth, it was the box that declared “Kate Winslet in Titanic” that even made you understand who she was supposed to be. Without the box, did Kate even have any value? Hmmm, what does that say about a collectible if she is only worth as much as the paper that enshrines her?
Thinking about throwing Kate out with the destroyed packaging upset me. It was like a real-life interpretation of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There’s nothing wrong with Kate—why toss her?
And so I didn’t. I kept the Galoob likeness of Kate as “Rose” and have her free and unfettered on my radiator, standing next to an Eiffel Tower replica. Thinking about it, I’ve concluded she should have always been taken out of her box and allowed to stand on her own two feet. Her character in the film was a renegade—a woman who rebelled against convention and societal ties. Who was I to have kept her bound and immobile for more than a decade?
So, farewell, collectible status. Hello, liberty. I think the real Kate Winslet and the imaginary “Rose” would be proud of my decision. Better to stand upright before the backdrop of Paris than to lie, immobile, in a ship that is destined to go down.
The doll’s box, which helped to explain who the doll was, did not survive the flood. The movie poster image vanished into oblivion (right).
Freed from the shackles of her collectible box, Kate as Rose (top) is now free to “breathe” and stand on her own (with the help of a stand) in a Paris setting.