Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian. The Smithsonian selected her photo to represent all teens from a specific decade.
Gender-neutral toys are seemingly so important since 2020. So why did I lift a specific doll from a store’s shelf, feeling almost self-conscious that I preferred this item for a granddaughter?
Stuffed puppies squat next to her crib, near a wind-up toy making music to aid sleep. But I so wanted to purchase an old-fashioned doll not another squishy item.
Should this very first doll be cuddly or stiff, flexible composition or porcelain, baby or child? Some of her relationship to the personal world of her imagination and self-play could develop with and because of her dolls. My choice could be part of the first step on that path.
Might she eventually want to mimic the doll’s expression, hairstyle, or even the clothing? What was seemingly a pleasure-purchase became pressure. A nearby toy, regal in red velvet holding a fur muff caught my attention; it was the costume. On the glass shelf below was one with a wholesome face, the body clad in a velour top and denim jeans; a white wool scarf swept around her shoulders.
What doll could be part of a private arena that would enlarge as she grew? Should I look for familiar clothing she’ll see in her specific climate region?
Identification. Hm. A key word. Bottom shelf had a wide-eyed doll sitting cross-legged. Her pale corduroy overalls were similar to items I'd mailed. 'Silly,' I talked to myself. 'Too clean. What was wrong with that.' Corduroy overalls, I remembered from my own child-raising years, were "play" clothes. Often covered with rug lint, cookie crumbs, droplets of milk, stains from liquid vitamins, they looked unwrinkled only when taken from fragile tissue paper before ever being worn.
I moved to another section of glass shelving noticing droplets of dust clinging to the surface. Long-braided, carrying a flower basket, a doll in an ankle length pinafore stirred memories of my older sister's braids that schoolboys used to pull and yell 'ding-dong' as if each pigtail were a bell pull. Thick-haired fashion dolls in bright red lipstick but wearing what resembled christening dresses appeared incongruous.
A bisque figurine covered in a satin-and-lace-hooped evening gown caused me to pick her up. My wedding gown had a double hoop, and the diameter of the nuptial skirt was as wide as the aisle space between pews. My daughter's bridal dress had a chapel length train extending from a slim gown without gathers or flare. Times change. A cliche. Not trite, however. Hoops were obsolete for my sons' wives as well, and best left for Scarlett O'Hara.
Seems the clothing either attracted or rebuffed, as did excessively painted lips and adult hairstyles. How shall I select? Snow White's 'Mirror Mirror on the wall' began to run through my head. Mirror, Mirror. Yes. Back to identification. I saw it: a infant-doll with huge blue eyes, no eyelashes, flaxen hair. Barely perceptible eyebrows were straight. This nose had no definition except for the tip where rounded nostrils formed. The upper lip, thin pointed and light pink, showed a fuller lower lip close to a rounded chin. Cheeks, pushed out further than eyes, were so like the fat pads on my granddaughter’s, and I was pulled by a certain pouty expression just like her mother had as a young child .... a "mirror".
It was no longer important if the arms moved, or how the body was connected. This face reflected my granddaughter’s face, her mother's, and probably my own at one time, would share the child’s bed, pretend tea parties, rocking chair hugs, and life. A composition-form toy might be both a first and special companion for her. Perhaps when she scolds or praises this doll, she'll be talking to herself.
As the cashier accepted my credit card, its sound jolted me back to reality. I looked down at the payment station to focus on the doll, then signed the sales receipt. Now, removed from surfaces adorned with other toys, how did I feel about her? Perfect.