Baby Girl the Second’s ‘big’ Christmas gift last month was a very special doll, one that looks quite a bit like her. For the first couple weeks, Buttercup went everywhere with us, had her hair combed frequently, and was talked about to every friend, acquaintance, and store clerk who seemed even mildly interested (or not). This daughter of mine has never latched onto one particular necessary-for-breathing doll or stuffed animal or blanket, but it looks like Buttercup is going to be a good friend for a long time, even though the first flush of adoration has worn off a bit.
Naturally, Baby Girl’s interactions with her doll set me to thinking, not only about the dolls who were my particular companions when I was her age, but also about my own experiences as a doll.
I loved my dollies; they were as tenderly cared for as a little girl knew how: bathed and dressed and tucked in carefully at night. But even more, I loved Grandma, and I was her dolly. That was what she called me when I was small, and I was supremely happy and secure in the inarticulate but clear understanding that I was cherished and delighted in.
We moved a state away from Grandma when I was five. She and I remained close always, but I had outgrown being her dolly by the time we lived near each other again. That’s what happens, of course. Little girls grow up, and their relationships change and mature. They don’t relate to either their grandmothers or their dolls the same way when they are teenagers that they did when they were toddlers. But that innocent assurance of being treasured, just by being, still seems to me a grievous loss.