“Oh, please — please let me have that doll!” I begged. We stood in the toy section of Dunlap’s Dry Goods Store on Main Street in Pecos, Texas. Our small western town was going all out for Christmas in 1945 and Dunlap’s had a large supply of cloth dolls with golden hair. And so, it wasn't a total surprise when the doll turned up as a gift from Santa under our Christmas tree. I loved the doll and played with her constantly. Maybe I played with her too constantly. Early one morning, I found the doll in the yard, chewed into pieces by my dog, Wags. “Oh Wags, how could you do this to me?” I wailed.
Mother quickly came to the rescue saying, “I’ll make a new cloth doll for you that will be even better than the first one.” The next day, we drove into town to buy a pattern, cotton stuffing, yarn, and material for a new doll. My mother stayed with the job for several days. When she introduced me to the doll, I whispered “Oh, thank you. She looks beautiful. She even feels better than the doll from Dunlap’s.” From that time on, the doll that Mother made slept with me every night.
My mother died and I started to grow up. Eventually, I outgrew my dolls. Gently, I packed all of them away — with one exception. The cloth doll Mother made continued to join me in bed every single night. Through elementary and middle school the doll slept with me. I’m embarrassed to confess that the little cloth doll slept with me all through high school. “This really seems ridiculous,” I’d tell myself after coming home from a date.
Through the years, the doll remained safely packed away. By the time my children arrived, her hair had become thin and her limbs wobbled. My own children were never invited to play with the doll; she seemed too special and much too fragile. Years passed. Grandchildren arrived. Once in a while, I’d look at the doll and pack her away again. “Really, you should throw the doll away. What a dusty mess.” I’d admonish myself.
Two years ago, the old cloth doll endured our first flood. I knew the time had come to throw her away. A second flood came and although she did not get wet a second time, the doll emerged once again during cleanup. Her hair now seems even thinner, dark marks from muddy water, and mold streaked on her face and her blue dress. A good bath helped a little but not much. “Darn! Now, what do I do with her?” Apparently, I now face a “hung” jury. One part prods, “Take a picture and let her go.” Another strong voice insists, “She really doesn’t take up much space. What does it hurt to keep her around?”
“How silly can you be?” I ask my 75 year-old-self. Yet, if I were a betting person, I’d put good money on the possibility that the doll Mother made will stay with me until the end.