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Bird's Blog

Poetry, musings, observations, commentary, rants, confessions...and who knows what else!

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Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Teacher, writer, poet, grandmother, lover, wine-drinker, chocolate eater, beach comber, hiker, traveler, Giants fan, San Franciscan. All work on this blog is copyrighted material.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Girl and Her Doll

In third grade, I received a doll, Bessie the Bashful Bride, for Christmas. She lay in a long white box with a big, red ribbon tied about it. Nestled in tissue paper, she was dressed in a bridal gown and had green hair. She was soft and cuddly, unlike my previous doll, Pitiful Pearl, who was a hard doll, stiff, not amendable to cuddling.

Bessie had called silently (as toys are wont to do) through the store window to my mother. Passing by on a winter’s eve, she stopped outside the plate glass window of some downtown shop, captured by Bessie’s soft, smiling face and shy demeanor – she didn’t at first notice Bessie’s green hair and bridal clothes.

Bessie was an anomaly. A cuddling doll with green hair dressed in a bridal gown? She was a misfit no doubt. Who on earth would buy such a doll for their daughter? But she was perfect for me, a shy, withdrawn 8-year-old who didn’t quite fit in any where.

My mother went into the shop and had the clerk fetch Bessie from the window display. She held Bessie in her arms – and Bessie fit perfectly, her rather ample doll-butt nestling in the crook of my mother’s arm. Bessie was the doll for her daughter to hold and cuddle and cherish.

Christmases in my home were modest. Every year, one of three children received a “big” gift, while everyone else received small trinkets. One year, my sister and I received a joint big gift – a child’s record player. Another year, my sister received a bike and the very next year, it was my turn for a shiny, blue coaster bike with a basket hanging from the handles. But this particular year was not my turn for a big gift, and I don’t recall whose turn it was, for once I opened up the Bessie box, it felt like my big year. I fell in love with Bessie at first sight.

Her gorgeous bridal outfit seemingly had nothing to do with her true attraction. It was Bessie’s smile, Bessie’s soft and cuddly body that endeared her to my mother and to me. The bridal dress was beautiful – Bessie even had a veil, but the wedding garb was short-lived, and soon replaced with every day doll clothes. Though I had a wonderfully rich fantasy life (which included a few imaginary friends), I had no little girl daydreams about marriage or weddings. And I was very practical when it came to clothes. The least fuss and bother the better. A doll in a fancy bridal dress didn’t work well with climbing trees – and climb trees I did, with Bessie, a book, and apples in tow. Perched in a tree, I often read aloud to Bessie. She would smile her bashful smile. I would offer her bites of my apple in between pages, but she was a selfless doll and preferred to leave the entire apple to me. I am sure, however, that she appreciated being read aloud to. She liked every book I read to her and never had a complaint.

Bessie was well-loved yet often ill-used. She lost most of her hair the day I played beauty parlor with her. I shampooed her hair, tried to perm and style it. Bessie became the half- bald, bashful bride. She wore caps for a while to hide her embarrassment, yet she never reproached me. Her love was unconditional.

My mother was a cold woman sometimes. Though she did many motherly things, they were often void of that motherly warmth. She taught me my colors, numbers, and alphabet before I started kindergarten. She provided crayon and paper for coloring and books for reading. But she was not a cuddler herself – there weren’t many times I can recall sitting in her lap, and I have no memories of her brushing my hair or helping me get ready for bed. She would come in and say goodnight at the bedroom door –she never sat on the edge of the bed and gently pushed the hair away from my face, or caressed my cheek. That was not her way. But love her children she did. Of this I am certain.

In Bessie, I received all the motherly warmth my mother held tight within her. She knew she couldn’t cuddle her daughter. She knew that if her daughter could not be cuddled, her daughter at least needed to cuddle someone.

Bessie would be the last doll of my childhood and the one I loved the most. I would sleep with her for years before she was relegated to a chair in my bedroom. When I left home at 18 to move to the Bay Area, I left with $100 in my pocket, a box full of record albums, and packed in my small suitcase full of clothes –Bessie.

To this day, Bessie occupies a chair in my bedroom. She is accompanied by Pearl (whom my mother kept for me for many years and then sent along in the mail), and a small collection of stuffed animals – gifts from my daughter to keep Bessie, a gift from my mother, company.

11 Comments:

Blogger /t. said...

citizen bird,

a touching memento
carried from childhood
and into adulthood -- and there she sits, sans hair, still adored and loved as ever

a great christmas story

rosebud

/t.

December 14, 2006 7:57 PM  
Blogger infinitesimal said...

awwwww

sounds like my Cindy Doll.

Nice of you to read to her, I am sure she appreciated that, not opening her eyes in public and all
(I know she opened them, but just like Cindy, only moved at night when everyone was asleep)

Happy HoHoHo

Boyed......

December 14, 2006 8:29 PM  
Blogger Crashtest Comic said...

I prefer dolls that come with a greased hole.

December 14, 2006 10:34 PM  
Blogger Little Lamb said...

that was nice. My mohter was a pack rat, but not with me. As I out grew stuff she throwed it away.

December 15, 2006 7:37 AM  
Blogger Jack K. said...

Ahh, dear bird, your story has touched my heart. The photos probably do not do Bessie justice, and that is not a slam on her or your camera skills. Sometimes it means more to be in the presence of such an icon. She is gorgeous.

You have inspired me to begin my story of Jane, my mother. She is not always an easy person to be around, so it has been difficult to discover the words. You have served me more than you may ever know.

Thank you for sharing this part of your life.

December 15, 2006 11:07 AM  
Blogger Bird said...

/t.! rosebud - citizen bird??? squawk! you do know that red sled stood for something more, eh?

CT- i'd thank you for your comment,but then again...maybe not (though of course, it did make me laugh).

lambsies - you know, my daughter has a stuffed lamb.

infin - girls and their dolls, eh? yes, poor bessie - i'm sure bessie opened her eyes at night - if only to keep watch over me.

jack - my friend - i have tried repeatedly to comment over at your blog and i simply can't get through.

but - i am honored by your comments here.

December 15, 2006 3:33 PM  
Blogger Bird said...

i was hasty and neglectful - /t. - appreciated the rest of your comment as well. bessie is a christmas story - she meant so much to me- and to my mother.

December 15, 2006 3:43 PM  
Blogger /t. said...

bird,

will i
regret asking this(?)

what more does that red sled stand for?

/t.

December 15, 2006 4:23 PM  
Blogger Little Lamb said...

I want a stuffed lamb!

December 16, 2006 9:11 AM  
Blogger Aunty Belle said...

Sweet Bird,
how dear...dear, dear, dear reflection,yore bessie and yore mama (maybe HER mama didn't cuddle her?)

Looky, have ya read Velveteen Rabbit? Same idea, huh? A beloved doll, stuffed animal loved until it is threadbare.

Well, My daughter still has her 4 foot Raggedy Ann, and her Pooh Bear (very bare bear) And, Little lamb, she also has her lamb printed flannel sheets--hoo whee!

But Bird, what?? You wuz ever SHY???
Cain't git that thought settled in my mind, honey.

Now...about yore mama, sugar, well, I imagine that Bessie is a manifestation of yore mama's desire to cuddle you, to be affcetionate--and she shur 'nuff loved ya lots.

December 16, 2006 11:12 AM  
Blogger Peaches said...

Memories of my own whizzed back to my mond as I read of your sweet Bessie. I remembered a doll I was so sure her hair would grow back, so I cut it. She ended up bald and I painted her hard bare head with brown paint to make up for it. Alas it was never the same.

Thank you for your sweet memories and another insight into the little girl who grew into a wonderful woman.

Cheers by dear soul mate.

December 16, 2006 3:47 PM  

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