The Doll Lady

The Doll Lady had a storefront business selling and repairing dolls, but a few years ago she moved her dolls into her house and closed her store. Now her living room is heavily populated with dolls and headless doll torsos. Even her kitchen has curio cabinets stocked with dolls.

Last September I dropped off my grandmother’s German Kestner doll for The Doll Lady to repair the holes in her kid (a type of leather) body where sawdust was coming out. She said she could re-set her wig, as well. That was, as I said, September.

I started getting anxious by February. I began to request to pick up my doll every couple of weeks, but The Doll Lady couldn’t seem to understand why I wanted her back now, finished or not. When my dad’s illness was diagnosed as terminal I became even more agitated that I might never get my doll back.

She had been my dad’s mother’s doll for decades–and my father gave her to me several years ago, as well as some clothing my grandmother had made for her. I’d admired her for much of my life, and it was thrilling to receive her, another link between my grandmother, my father, and me.

I wrote before about my grandmother’s doll and her beautiful clothes here. When I left her with The Doll Lady, I left her without clothing so that they wouldn’t get damaged. Finally, I was able to retrieve my doll on Sunday. Here she is with her new ringlets and same vintage steel hairpins. And the patches below her knees. What a beauty.



And here is the “reverse” view:


This doll is over 100 years ago. She might be from the 1890s.

As I waited in the living room of The Doll Lady for the paperwork to be completed I looking around and wondered how her husband enjoys living amongst all those dolls. I know that some people don’t even like to stay in my guest room where I keep my dolls because they don’t like all those eyes upon them. But how would it be to live ย right in the midst of the dolls?

Does her identity slip away or does she feel like a Doll God?



Filed under Arizona, Book Giveaway, Doll God, Dolls, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing

74 responses to “The Doll Lady

  1. How wonderful to have a doll of your grandmother’s. I didn’t play with dolls much, but I did have a Mrs. Beasley when I was very young. I really wished it had been saved. Would have been fun to pass onto my own granddaughter. (When I have one, that is. My sons are teenagers, so I don’t need that to happen anytime soon. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) Glad you got your doll back!

  2. So cool, Luanne. What a treasure to have this link to your family’s past through this doll–and what beautiful workmanship.

    I think I might get creeped-out by having all those dolls around. There are certain episodes of the Twilight Zone and such with dolls that I can’t watch. I have an active imagination. ๐Ÿ™‚ I never minded my daughters’ American Girl dolls and Barbies though. They loved their dolls and still have them.

    • There can be too many dolls on display in one house, that is FOR sure. I might write a blog post about another doll lady I met who was even more over the top. But notice I said “on display.” That gives me an out for all those dolls in boxes under the beds. Are you talking about that Twilight Zone episode where the stepdad hated the doll (and the child) and the doll hated him???

  3. I would have loved to have had one of my grandmother’s dolls. How fabulous! I’m with Merril though. It would be a bit creepy to live in a houseful of them. I’ve seen to many movies.

  4. I’ll go with creepy. I don’t even have any of my own dolls from my youth. I guess our family were not savers. My mother was raised fairly poor so I think her dolls may have been made from old socks.

    • I come from a family of savers, although NOT my mother. She has barely saved anything except scrapbooks/photo albums. She’s always looking for an occasion to get rid of stuff! Socks dolls, by the way, are fabulous!!!

  5. I do have a doll, presented to me by my late grandmother. Your post made me to revisit those good old days. Thanks

  6. Great results! Your doll lady brought back memories of visiting a family friend who was a surrogate grandmother to us in Grosse Point, MI. We loved going over there and spending a weekend – but it was always a major bonus if we got to go across the street and visit the “doll lady” whose home probably looked very similar to that of your doll’s restorer – a cross between fascinating, enjoyable and creepy!

    • Yes: fascinating, enjoyable and creepy. And the more dolls in a house in “public rooms” the more creepy and the less fascinating, I think. There is a balance and I don’t like worrying about the doll collector’s state of mind!

  7. Wow, that’s a real treasure!
    My MIL is a doll collector. Or rather, she was. She has very few out in the common areas anymore. Her guest room is also the doll room. Of course, we’re used to dolls, but yeah, some people will not sleep in a doll room. It’s the light window sheers that always bothered me, lol!

    • Light window sheers. Yikes. Now THAT is truly scary. I have seen a lot of movies where the vulnerable one is inside with the light shining through the sheers! I like to close my blinds at night (hubby doesn’t “get” that).
      Actually I’m glad hear your MIL doesn’t have too many out in common areas. I love my dolls, but I really don’t like them in inappropriate areas. It seems a little ahem crazy to me. Maybe I am being judgmental . . . .

  8. You’re lucky you got your doll back. A treasure like that can easily “disappear.” She’s a very special doll. Glad you got her back. As I read, I was already planning on coming down there to go with you to get her back. Saved me the plane fare.

    • LOL! Thank you so much for your offer ;)!!!
      Re not getting her back: that’s what I was so afraid of, Anneli! I wondered if I would have to go to small claims, but how would that bring her back?

  9. Amazing doll! Did she explain why she took so long to return it to you?

    Dolls don’t bother me, clown dolls though…no time for that!

    • She did not explain. She acted put out that I was asking so “soon.” But when I said I was picking her up in a week, done or not, she finally finished her. I’m sure it was tedious, careful work, but that’s what she gets paid the big bucks for.
      My mom put a clown doll collection in the nursery she made for my son, her first grandchild. He was terrified and we had to take them all out every time he stayed there. Apparently that is a fear many people share!

  10. I think it’s wonderful that you have your grandmother’s doll, Luanne.
    Like Carrie, I had a Mrs. Beasley doll too. I never had a doll with eyes that looked real. I don’t know what it is, but they scare me.

    • Mrs. Beasley is a cutie, but I always thought the name was so ridiculous on the TV show. I wonder if a kid would really come up with a name like that herself. What do you think?

  11. I don’t like the doll, but I am very pleased you have it

  12. The good thing about Barbie’s is they don’t look like real people. I still have a few of mine kicking around and I save a few of my kids dolls, too. They decorate the family room and nobody much minds them. Your doll is gorgeous and incredibly well preserved. What a treasure to have in your family.

    • That’s true about Barbie. I’ve never even consider Barbie eyes looking at me! For some reason they feel almost more like toys than dolls. For most of my lifetime that doll sat in a child’s oak and cane antique rocker. The doll and rocker suddenly came into our house when I was a kid and then my parents kept her in the rocker until I was past 50! I do wonder why my grandmother gave up the doll right around the time I was playing with dolls, yet my parents wouldn’t let me touch her ;). I guess it’s a good thing they didn’t!

  13. This was so good. I love the doll’s curls.

    I used to make painted dolls for people of their deceased pets. I started when one of my beloved cats died and then a lady who owned a high-end craft store wanted me to make one for her. I still have the original but the clothes have been lost. She lives in the closet because she scares my husband:)

  14. It’s no wonder you were becoming increasingly anxious about getting her back as you were losing your Father. She is lovely, Luanne. Her facial expression is one of the most interesting I’ve seen because she does look as uf she’s about to utter some exclamation!

    I never thought about it but a roomful of dolls would kind of creep me out ๐Ÿ˜Š unless most of them are under the bed ๐Ÿ’ฅ

    • Sammy, I’m glad that response makes sense to you because I wasn’t sure why the two events seemed so tied together. At one point I even tried begging her that I wanted the doll back right away because my dad was in hospice. That didn’t move her. She had her own troubles, apparently.
      So lying in bed at night, when you can’t sleep, you wouldn’t be thinking about all those little bodies under the bed?

  15. Hi Luanne,
    I love the story about the Doll Lady and particularly seeing this rare family gem with her wonderful history. She is truly beautiful! You are a lucky woman to have the treasures that you do! And you are a special woman to appreciate their value.
    I hope your weekend is super!!

    • Sheila, I do feel lucky I have a lot of treasures. Between this doll, her clothes, the clothes for my walking doll that my grandmother made, and then the photos and “stuff” I share over on the Family Kalamazoo, I am the one with the sentimental stuff. I want to get back over to the other blog, but of course I don’t really feel ready yet. Although it’s about my mom’s family, not my dad’s (at last not too much), I feel that I when I go back it ought to be with a post about my father.

      • Yes, I absolutely agree. It should be about your father when you’re ready. It took me a year to write anything after my dad died in 1976. He had been sick for almost two years with colon cancer, but it still was very hard for me. He was 51 and I was 30. I am sending comfort your way today.

  16. Your grandmother’s doll is beautiful. I’m glad she has come home to live in her proper place with you. <3

    • Me too!! This is where she needs to be! And who in the family will really care about her when I’m gone? That is how things end up not being kept in families–when the last link (person who remembers) is broken.

  17. Luanne, you could take this experience with the Doll Lady and turn it into a short story! Yes, there’s a creepy element with the sense of eyes being on you from all sides, but also something poignant … past lives since I assume many of the dolls are old? So glad you got the doll back. Under the circumstances I would have been very, very anxious as well. The doll is beautiful … cute butt too (sorry, couldn’t resist ๐Ÿ˜‰ … Hope you and your family are doing well.

    • Marie, I am only beginning to wonder if I ought to take some of my experiences like the Doll Lady and use them for fiction. I wrote fiction years ago and I keep thinking it might be a way to go in the future.
      LOL re the doll’s butt. Yes, it is very cute.
      We’re doing ok, although I worry that my mother might be getting lonely.

      • Ah, your mom. I was thinking of her. I hope she has some friends nearby who can help take the edge off.
        Regarding fiction writing, why not try flash fiction? Some poetry can even be read as flash fiction just by messing with the lines.

  18. Oh Luanne, how wonderful to have your special doll connecting you with your grandmother and father; the timing seems perfect for you to have at last had her repaired and a great comfort I’m sure. I have to admit that I would be a little freaked out with all these eyes watching me too, but I have to blame a horror film my daughter made me watch with her recently for that – it was about a haunted doll, yikes ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  19. Luanne one hundred years old, she is a beauty. My mother in law has a glass cabinet filled to the brim with antique dolls. My kids use to love looking at them. I do get a bit creeped out by all those eyes. I can’t imagine living amongst all those limbs and plastic. Glad you got yours back, so much family history there.

    • Thank you, Kath. Are her dolls really all antique or are they vintage–do you know? I’m guessing if they are plastic that they are actually vintage dolls? The antique ones tend to be bisque, porcelain, kid, cloth, etc. Vintage can be plastic or even composition. Yes, the eyes are the thing that usually get people. But let me tell you that seeing any doll parts away from the doll and in quantity can be disorienting!! Blog post might be coming on that ;)!!!

      • I would say vintage too, they are very old but none of them are made of wood, actually porcelain might be it, now that I think of it. Some of the later ones look like ceramic or some may have plastic, so Vintage may be the word to use here Luanne. Australia is such a young country too. So we probably use the word antique when its probably not lol.

        • I’m glad you said that about Australia. While i realize that, I tend to forget and think the U.S. is the young country. But Australia is even younger, if you look it at as a political entity!

  20. What a beautiful doll, especially since it used to belong to your grandmother.Precious. Now, you have to show her dressed (dolled) up. ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Oh oh! I thought I pressed ‘post comment’ yesterday. I really did write a comment, Luanne. So sorry, maybe it got sent into another box of awaiting approval? I have been having trouble with my cell phone when I am not at the library trying valiantly to let others know I read their posts.
    I was very relieved this doll who is a special treasure and in such good condition for her age, made it from you to the Doll Lady and back again. This is quite a remarkable doll, Luanne. My Mom’s oldest doll had her hands chewed or sucked on. It was some kind of composition doll and Mom was embarrassed to tell me it was she who had done this to her precious doll. She bought the tiniest baby mittens to cover those little stubs, too. I look forward to seeing her in her full ‘regalia,’ since she is now living at your home, repaired and ready to be dressed up! I bet you have some wonderful dresses made by your mother or grandmother. Do you have an original dress?
    I have a porcelain doll that my Mom’s ceramic artist friend made for me. My doll has a cloth body, dark hair and brown eyes with little pearls in her ears. She is dressed in a simple country yellow flowered dress. While growing up, my Mom was so clever! I would make my bed and put it on the bed, sitting up. My Mom’s doll was dressed in a cotton dress with tiny rose buds, had reddish auburn hair and green eyes. Her doll the artist had placed pearl earrings in, too. Mom sold her antique doll which may or may not been older than she, long ago. We have talked about Mom’s sewing dresses made from her primary grades dresses and pinafores. She still has two 50’s dolls wearing her 30’s clothing designs. Smiles, Robin

  22. Oh, I would love to see a pic of the porcelain doll, Robin! The 30s clothing designs, too! So sweet that your mom put mittens on her damaged doll. Composition is not a very sturdy thing to make dolls from IMO. I am always amazed when I see one in good shape in an antique store, though this is happening less and less as most dolls are now being sold online (such a shame).
    Did it hurt your mother to sell her doll or was she over it?

    • I used to have a serious collection of dolls ranging from cloth Japenese to felt with real hair to Chatty Cathy to a plastic Ma-ma doll (when you dipped her)–there was even s Thumbelina doll complete with bassinet. I don’t remember what happened to them all over the years. Dolls are special though.

      • Oh what a lovely collection. I would LOVE to see Thumbelina. How adorable!! I do wonder what happened to your dolls?! Did someone else have a hand in disposing of them or did you leave them behind somewhere? Now I will wonder!!!

        • I think I recall selling a couple of them to an antiques dealer to pay for a hospital bill, only to find out that my insurance covered it. But it was time to move on since we were downsizing due to a big move. I do remember them fondly and think about them now and then.

          • Well, that would be a good reason, especially if insurance didn’t cover it!!! Knowing me, I would take a lot of pix before I parted ways ;)., The older I get, the more pix I take. Silly, I think.

            • Sadly I don’t have any pics, just regrets for parting ways with these old companions. I didn’t play with them as much as enjoyed having them to look at. But that could be the start of the excuse of starting another collection and I am trying to downsize.

      • When my Mom moved with Dad from a formal (Victorian furniture) home in Bay Village to Vermilion they sent their furniture, including their chandeliers to what they called “Sothebyโ€™s” but I am thinking they meant a New York auction place but not so high as that notable company. They wanted to travel and their Lake Erie cottage was just a place to rest up in. The dolls in boxes in the lake house attic were ones she hoped would acquire worth later. She did not seem to mind giving her only doll away but she still has the bed porcelain doll, some Lladro figurines from trips to Spain and only one case of these in her senior living apt. One of my Mom’s last splurged was two Kate Middleton Ashton Drake dolls. One for Felicia and one for Carrie. I old use new phone to take pictures of mom’s hand sewn dresses on dolls. I am glad you are so efficient and determined to put your family’s memories in order, Luanne. Someday, maybe we’ll exchange cell phone numbers.

  23. I have some old dolls too, and I keep them in our bedroom. I think it’s comforting to have them around, and thankfully my husband has gotten used to them! My kids can’t stand them. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think it would be creepy to have all kinds of dolls lurking about the house.

    I’m glad you got your doll back!

    • Haha, yes, too many dolls lurking can be creepy. Especially the lurking part! Mary Ann, I’m so glad you have some old dolls for the comfort. From my perspective, a house is not a home without a few dolls and a few cats ;).

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