04 April, 2015

D is for Dolly

from Edward Gorey's Gashleycrumb Tinies

I am the second child of two.  But the first girl.  So from the moment I was born I was adoringly, affectionately addressed by my mother as her "real, live Dolly".  I think it goes without saying that my parents were really happy to have a girl: to make up the pair, to have one of each, to finish the set.

So what does a person usually do with one's Dolly? 

At this juncture I should declare that I'm probably not the best person to ask.  I always loathed dolls.  Give me some pencils and paper and I could entertain myself for hours, nay, days.  A doll however, was only fun for as long as it took for me to:
  1. dismember it,
  2. render it Yul Brynner bald, and then be freaked out by those giant, creepy hair follicles, or
  3. invent some horrible disease to justify my total rejection of it for all eternity.
So to return to the question, what to do when it comes to playing with dolls (and I'm casting my mind back to Mum with me) there was a lot of being dressed up with ribbons and frills and other extreme manifestations of prettiness.  Which for me was utter torture because I was the child least likely to want to be preened and fussed over.  Pathologically practical and desirous of invisibility, the very idea of a frock with adornments was pure hell and culturally something I simply had to wordlessly endure.
Same went for my unruly curls.  There was a lot of combing and controlling and attempting to smooth stray strands into place with spittle.

"Don't worry," my father would taunt. "It's only her dribble."

Me aged 7, 1975

Then there was an uncharacteristic optimism on Mum's part that Dolly (for that was my nickname, too) would like to play dress ups with her own little dollies.  So when I was given dolls for gifts (not by Mum) she would lovingly spend hours sewing miniatures of the handmade clothes she'd made me, so I'd have outfits for my babies in case I ever changed my mind about them.  Which sadly I never did.  

Ironically the last dolls I were ever given I love and cherish.  They were given to me in 1993.  

I arrived home to the home phone ringing. (It was before the days of mobile phones.)  It was my brother.  VERY EXCITED.  

"Are you home?"

"Have you been in the garage?"
"Go. Go. Go and look!"
"Go and look!  And come back!"  

 (I don't think we had a cordless phone either.)  
The garage was the domain of my housemate who was restoring a 1961 Volvo P1800 so when I opened the door I was greeted with sight of the gleaming, red icon with a complete set of Beatles dolls carefully arranged atop the boot.  I nearly peed my pants.  It was the nicest thing anyone had ever done.  And it wasn't even my birthday or anything.   

My Beatles dolls are just like these. 
Hec bought them on a whim and brought them to my place but I wasn't home
so he set them up in the garage and went home and started phoning until I answered.

So there you have it.  Despite my antipathy I have come to terms with dolls.  Pencils and paper are still my friends, but I remain to this day and for ever and always my Mum's real live Dolly.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.  

And at least she doesn't try and pull off my arms and legs.  (Or she hasn't yet.)


  1. What a wonderful brother. I envy the closeness you and Hec had, and I'm so sorry he was taken from you (in the earthly sense) way too soon. xox