I tend to resent some of the newer dolls on today’s market.
Remember baby dolls? Little girls could hug them, hold them, nurture them. It was like a rehearsal for good parenting. Now I see advertisements for big-headed, swollen-lipped, racily clad dolls named — appropriately — Bratz. Lord, deliver me.
My personal childhood favorite was an 8” plastic Ginny doll which I received as a Christmas present in the 1950s. I found this doll a few years ago, in the back of a cupboard, stuffed into her red suitcase with all her clothes. It took me back to an innocent time when my neighbor and I used to play with our Ginny dolls — hers brunette, mine blonde — when we would act out scenes on the front lawn, the backyard picnic blanket, or in our bedrooms.
Whenever we saved up enough allowance, we bought them new outfits from the hobby shop on Whittier Boulevard, alongside boys who bought model airplane kits, and Dads who wandered in to augment their narrow gauge railroads. Betty and I would finish up Saturday morning by visiting the corner drugstore for a Coke or root beer, and buying a small paper bag of horehound drops to share on the walk home. Kids were allowed – expected – to walk home in those days.
I remember how happy I was buying Ginny her white nurse’s uniform with a red cross on the front; the chintz pinafore; jeans and gingham shirt with country straw hat. Not fettered by living my entire life in Southern California, I was thrilled to buy Ginny a pair of ski pants, with a set of wooden skis and ski poles. I also treated her to a winter coat made of green felt – finished with a wide collar that looked as if it had been cut from a barrister’s wig, or toy poodle.
Ginny’s accoutrements include a shoe bag; socks, shoes, purses and hats; a hand mirror with comb; and a beloved Asta-type dog straight out of the old Nick and Nora movies. He was still wearing a plaid warming wrap and was tethered by a black leash.
I remembered trying to comb Ginny’s blonde hair around my finger in a perfect roll, to sit at the back of her neck. I even bought her a hatbox full of tiny curlers. Today her hair is wild and unruly.
Ginny’s most elegant apparel was a red velvet figure-skating outfit, a la Sonja Henie. The hem was trimmed with white fur and silver rickrack, which at age nine I found to be breathtakingly beautiful. In 1952 it probably was. There were ice skates, too, but I never found them in the jumble of clothes. Opening that lid startled me, to see the heap just as I had left it some time during the Eisenhower administration. What an embarrassing snapshot of my childhood habits!
Ginny’s chubby arms and legs still move, but they do not bend. She’s babyish, but not a baby. I didn’t cuddle her, but I took care of her, like a good Mom. She maintains her rosy cheeks and rosebud mouth. She acquired a rosy tummy and rosy backside, too, from 50 years of hibernating in cheap red velvet. Maybe I wasn’t such a great Mom after all.
I think a doll becomes more valuable if she is played with and develops a smudge-faced, wild-haired history. Sorry, Antiques Roadshow, but it’s sad to think a doll is worth more in the box, dust-free and untouched. My Ginny was played with. We learned things together. She made me a better person.
God knows what Bratz might be teaching our girls today.