Carolyn’s Online Magazine (#COMe)
OUR DOLLS WORE FANCY HAND-CRAFTED CLOTHES
A tough question. I remember little of my childhood toys.
I phoned my only older sister for help, since I don’t recall many toys from my childhood. The resulting answer is a merging of our stories.
Grandma gave us each a doll for Christmas, she said. You loved your doll.
It was my first Christmas living away from the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, home of my Grandparents, Albert and May Isabelle Walker Briskay. We had recently moved from their 29 Spring Street home, located at the bottom of the hill, to a 108 Spring Street apartment at the top of the hill. I was probably 8-years-old when we moved into the apartment to live with our Mother, Nancy Briskay Cornell.
My older sister said the dolls were about 12-15 inches long, their skin made of hard, rigid plastic. Perhaps similar to this one I was given by a doll collector:
She said I loved the dolls and played with them all the time. You would bathe them, comb their hair, dress them, and wash their clothes.
Although my Sister loved the dolls, what she loved more was thefancy, original, clothes Grandma sewed for them. They were original and unique.
My Sister’s friend Louise, and some other neighborhood kids, also played with the dolls. My Sister liked this because none of them had such unique clothes for their dolls.
I consider her love for the unique clothes strange, since my Sister also hated the clothes Grandma made for us. The year we moved uphill she made us pinafores, which my Sister hated. My Sister, who yearned for store bought clothes, remembers a poodle skirt (which was the style of the day) our Mother purchased for her (before we moved uphill), which our Grandmother hated because it was store bought.
Back to the dolls.
Both my Sister and I recall a sunny day I squatted on the lawn outside our apartment and washed the doll’s clothes. I dipped them in a bowl of sudsy water, rinsed them with the hose, and laid them on the grass to dry. When Mother came home from work and she was very angry with me.
Did having the dolls influence my desire to have 12 children, or enhance it?
Regardless, as a child I always stated I wanted 12 children and I wanted to be a teacher. Ironically, I ended up with fertility problems and my application to Buffalo State Teacher’s College was rejected. I ended up adopting my daughter Sandy and birthing my son Nolan, and I ended up working in the medical field first and the human services field next.
Another point: I still have a hand-crafted (by me) doll’s dress I made. What influence did my Grandmother’ sewing—of both our clothing and the doll’s clothes—have on my life?
As for my Sister—she doesn’t recall if she wanted children at the time she was playing with dolls. However, while in high school she determined she didn’t want kids, ever…we had so many at our home. Mother had had four babies in five years (she was 12-years-old when the first of this crew was born—I was 11).
Eleven months after her first wedding day she gave birth to her oldest child, a daughter. When I was pregnant I wasn’t ready. I was only 20—a young 20, not mature by a long shot. I thought kids were a chore. However, she loved her daughter deeply from the first moment she saw her. She and her husband adopted a child five years later.
She remarried after becoming a widow, becoming a step-mother to two children and birthing birthed three children, one of which died on his first day on earth.
When my Sister’s children were young she wanted to dress them up, the finer the better. She’d search the stores for satisfactory outfits. Was this desire a reflection of our favorite toy and a reaction to the clothes our Grandmother made? Or, was it a reflection on the fact that, when she wanted store bought clothes for herself, she had to, instead, stand still while our Grandmother pinned and hemmed the clothes she made for us?
It’s often difficult to determine cause and effect. How the doll’s and the doll’s clothes actually affected my Sister and I is difficult to say. However, the memories my we recall remained with us (mostly with her) throughout our lives.