"I could sell my dolls"

That's what I say--that I could sell my dolls--when we desperately need money. I never do sell them though. My dolls are the only things I own worth anything. If I sold them, that would be it. They would be gone, and I wouldn't have them any more. I have two of them, three if you count the one that is falling to pieces.

Once when we still lived in England, my parents took me to a doll museum. I walked around that place, and I was in heaven. I have forgotten a lot of things from my childhood, but not that trip to the doll museum. They were so beautiful. Always after that, I wanted to have an antique doll. I never knew how I would get it, but someday . . .

The day arrived between my freshman and sophomore years in high school. Freshman year, I dated Ken, a senior, who was good friends with my brother. After a few months, I decided that I didn't want to be dating him anymore so we broke up. He didn't think it was a good idea, but eventually accepted it. And since he was a friend of my brother's, we remained friends.

That summer, his grandmother died, and one day, some time later, he showed up at my house with a box. He said, "I found these in the garage, they belonged to my grandmother, I thought you might like them." Then he took off.

I took the box to my room, wondering what his grandmother had that I could possibly want. When I opened the box, I was stunned. Inside was an auburn-haired porcelain doll, obviously an antique, with brown sleep eyes. She had on a faded yellow dress, stockings, and shoes, a little hand-made hat, and even all of her undergarments. Next, there was an extraordinarily loved doll. The elastic that held her composition body together was stretched out so much that she hung floppy, but she had the most beautiful face with deep brown sleep eyes, and dimples. She had on a nightdress--handmade by a child--and an ancient auburn mohair wig that had been butchered long years before. She was so pathetic, she instantly became my favorite. After removing these two, I went back to the box, and there was a little china doll; she had no clothes on, except for a lace-up corset. Her leather hands were falling apart and leaking sawdust. All that was left in the box now were two little cupie doll figures, perhaps the type that would have been won at a fair. I couldn't believe that anyone would give away a find like this. But I was glad he had.

A few months later, I heard about a free doll appraisal, along with an auction. My parents went with me to find out what they were worth. This was the summer of 1982, and they were appraised at $350, $150, and $75, respectively. Just to be fair, I let Ken know how much they were worth, even though it would have been very difficult to give them back. He said that he gave them to me, and that was the end of it, so I proudly put them on display.

My dad and I heard about a place that was offering doll-making classes, so we decided to take them together (yes, my dad was the only man in the class, and yes, he did feel awkward. I felt a little awkward too, being sixteen and the only person under the age of forty in the class, but we both like making things, and it was something we did together). There we learned how to make reproduction porcelain dolls, and also how to put them together. Armed with that knowledge, and some appropriate string, my dad performed the operation that put the sweet-faced doll back on her feet, so to speak.

After I graduated from high school, I tried my hand at being a secretary. I hated it. One day when I went on my weekly pilgrimage to the doll store where my dad and I had taken the classes, I overheard the manager talking on the phone about needing a new manager, since she was moving to Hawaii. My heart skipped a beat. That, I thought, would be a dream come true for me. When she was off the phone, I nervously approached her, and asked if I could have an application. The job paid less than I was making, but I didn't care. Pretty soon I started my new job. I loved going to work there (except for having to deal with the manager, and her sister, the owner, who were two of the crabbiest old ladies you ever saw, but I knew that pretty soon the one would be gone, and the other lived a long way away, and wouldn't be in very often).

We sold doll-making supplies, reproduction dolls, figurines, miniatures, and stuffed toys, as well as other gift items. It was such a pleasure fussing around all those pretties; it was a little girl's fantasy. I remember when I was little, and would see pretties all locked up in cabinets. I'd wish I could freeze time so that I could have a chance to take them out and look them over properly (which, of course, in "little girleze" means, take off their clothes). Now that was all within my power.

I got a new wig for my poor butchered beauty, so that now, she has long wavy brown hair, which suits her far better than the original, and I dressed her in an antique white baby dress, tied around the waist with a baby blue ribbon. She also got new white stockings, and black patent shoes.

When I got married and moved out of my parents' house, there was no place for dolls, so they stayed behind. My parents have moved now. They live in a tiny town house, and my dolls are in storage. I'm not sure when they will come out, or where they will live when they do, maybe I could sell them . . .

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