By my late teen years, I had packed away my baby dolls and started collecting china dolls. Daddy was pastoring a little church then. Most of the twenty-five or thirty congregants were older folks. Many of them I’d known all my life, but there was an occasional newcomer. One ‘new’ old gentleman who lived alone became quite active in the church and accordingly spent a fair amount of time with our family.
Frank often told my parents, in my hearing, that I was ‘a little porcelain doll.’ He meant it as the sincerest compliment; it was his way of saying that I was pretty and delicate and well-mannered.
Collectible dolls are usually meticulously molded and constructed, perfectly painted, elegantly dressed. They are lovely, but not precisely lovable. They don’t hold up well under the strain of ordinary day-to-day handling. They are cold, and stiff, and fragile.
At that point in time, I had most of the qualifications for being a china doll. I wore a vaguely pleasant, noncommittal expression on my face. I went where I was supposed to go and filled the place assigned to me without argument. I behaved properly, as expected. I didn’t talk out of turn. My feelings were carefully concealed beneath an aesthetically pleasing surface.