MaryGold has not made an appearance. She isn’t under the bed, and she hasn’t sent me a postcard. As some of you pointed out, her disappearance is a mystery. MaryGold has a story to tell. But I don’t know what it is!
In a little twist, while I was searching for her yet again last Thursday, I happened upon her sister! Her sister’s name is Pinkie, and though she isn’t in Doll God, she does look remarkably like MaryGold. In fact, she could have been MaryGold if MaryGold hadn’t been MaryGold. You know what I mean, right?
Isn’t she something? Almost a twin, except for her pink outfit. You won’t catch her playing in mud puddles like MaryGold. She has her own merits, but she’s not my MG.
She’s even more flowery than MaryGold.
That’s why she’s named after PINKS, which if you are not a gardener, is a type of flower also known as Dianthus.
Still on the scent of MaryGold. And I do mean scent. After her frolics in the tidepools and mud puddles for her photo shoots, she exuded a lovely beachy dirt smell when I last saw her.
Several of you mentioned that I ought to write about MaryGold’s disappearance. Cinthia who wrote Dolls Behaving Badly mentioned she might do so. Marie at 1WriteWay had a great idea: that if enough people write about her she might turn up! So if you want to write about The Mystery of MaryGold, I would be thrilled to publish it here on my blog!
In the meantime, Pinkie will have to sit on my bookshelf and keep the books company.
If you wonder why I am being so silly, it is fun, but also I have been trying to get my mind off the San Bernardino tragedy. I taught at the university there for fifteen years and still feel part of the community. Also, the killers’ home in Redlands? The same town I had my poetry reading at last month. And while it was all going on, I was driving past the city. It really shocked me. I still feel numb.
On a smaller and even closer to home note, this weekend hubby was tree trimming with the landscaper and he looked up at the worst moment: when a big branch came crashing down. He has a corneal abrasion. The doctor used a dye and optical light to examine it. He showed me the scratch across his eyeball. It looks as if I took a big diamond and scratched the window on purpose. He wouldn’t fill the Percocet prescription, but I am making him take the antibiotic four times a day because apparently it’s easy to get an infection from a tree branch scratch on the cornea. But it should heal well.
Remember MaryGold? That doll from the cover of Doll God? The doll you named?
Yeah, her. That doll. Here she is with my daughter’s cat. Notice how she has a Mona Lisa smile on her face. But in the photo below she’s scowling. How does she do that?
The reason I am bringing her up is that I’ve lost her! I tore the house apart last night looking for her, but all I could find was her muddy pantaloons. I know this sounds creepy, but I feel responsible, as if I might have done away with her. Why else would I find one article of clothing, but she is nowhere to be found?
I did get a nice plaque in the mail from the people at the New Mexico Book Coop that sponsors the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, but it would have been nice to share it with MaryGold.
That’s right: my “baby” is an award-winning book. Doll God won the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award in its category. I can’t help but say WOOHOO!
And if I do say so myself, this book makes a great Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and [insert your holiday of choice] gift.
I’ll be donating some autographed copies for the raffle at the Holiday Festival that the animal shelter is participating in, so if you’re in the Phoenix area, you can pick one up that way! Or you can click the book to get to Amazon.
Home Fur Good Holiday Festival Cave Creek, AZ: December 12, 2015
On Sunday, I gave a poetry reading in Redlands, California, at the State Street Deli and Cafe. It was organized by Carla McGill, who did a fabulous job of it. Before I read, Carla read some of her own poetry, as did two other poets. After the event, I was able to sell and sign some copies of Doll God. Although I get nervous speaking in public, I really do love reading my poetry aloud. Actually, I love reading poetry aloud, period.
You know what I notice in this photo? How messed up my scarf got. What a shallow mind.
Here are a couple of clips of the reading. In the first I read “American Girl,” “Effigy,” and “Calculating Loss”–all poems from the book.
and in this clip I read a new poem about my great-grandmother.
I got home last night from another trip. This one was just as long as the one hubby and I took in August. We flew into Chicago, drove to Kalamazoo, Toronto, New York, Pennsylvania, and finally Indiana, visiting my mother, hubby’s cousin, and our daughter.
Now I need to write “The Definitive Guide to Gluten Free Travel REDUX.” Or at least Part 2. And pick up my writing-writing. On top of that, I plan to prepare for a poetry reading I’m giving in Redlands, California, on November 8.
But for now I need to unpack and catch up on work. Just glad to be HOME.
Saw this cool cardboard dollhouse in an antique mall.
Yesterday I opened an email listing the Finalists for the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards and dismally scrolled through it, sure that Doll God was overlooked.
But it WASN’T! It’s a Finalist! That was really wonderful news to get at the end of the week. Buy it here haha:
A week that has been a little rough. Remember my dear Nakana I brought home from the shelter two months ago? Suddenly her liver values have jumped dramatically. That apparently is BAD in cats. More tests on Monday . . . . Please send prayers or good vibes for her, if you are willing.
My friend and professor Clare Goldfarb published a beautiful piece in Lilith that involves two of my favorite topics: memory and family history. If you recall, I reviewed her novel She Blinked here. You can read “Material Culture: The Samovar” here. I love how it focuses on an object to talk about family and history. Just gorgeous.
That would make a good writing prompt: write about a family heirloom.
I’m working on the Flash Essay course I’m taking right now, but in my research for essay #2, I found this interesting newspaper article from July 9, 1920. Look below the lake commerce article for that tiny article that begins “Seven Babies.”
When I first read this report, I took it at its word: that there were seven babies that had been killed or kidnaped. They even clarified in the headline, although they tried to disguise it. I can just hear the argument.
“You can’t leave it so readers think these were real babies.”
“But it makes for better newspaper sales!”
“Put Kewpies in the headline!”
Grumble grumble. I’ll put it in, but in a way that fast readers won’t pay attention and will still think it’s 7 dead babies.
Haha. Is that all this woman can write about: dolls, cats, and birds?!
Speaking as a doll collector, I can tell you that Kewpies are very popular collector items, and I think this stash of 1920 dolls would be a hit today with the right person. You can click through the following photo to the blogger who posted about her aunt’s kewpie collection a few years ago. It’s full of cute Kewpie photos, and, yes, you can find a real baby in the mix (though not in this exact photo)!
Today is my BIG birthday. I turn 60 today. I still feel like a smidgling (my made-up word for a wee one), but there it is: 60. That’s a whole lotta numbers!
On Monday I mentioned that I would tell you about The Doll Empress who I met quite a few years ago. She must not be confused with The Doll Lady. I have changed her name here for reasons you will see when you read the following story.
I call her Bitzi because she did go by a cute nickname, but there was nothing Bitzi about her love for dolls.
The directions to her house were wrong—I knew that when she gave them to me, but she sounded fragile or confused enough that I thought I’d wing it and see if I could find her place myself. All I need is the address, I thought. I ended up driving back and forth on her rural street until I noticed a dirt road which seemed to disappear into the horizon. I figured I’d try driving down that path since she had mentioned a dirt road.
Sure enough it turned into a sort of primitive cul-de-sac, ending at a gray barn, flanked by houses, trailers, and outbuildings. She had told me to honk when I got there because her dog would greet me barking. So I did honk. The big piebald dog was there almost immediately, barking on schedule. I waited quite some time for her to appear, but I ended up honking again before she finally came out.
When she approached my car I realized why it took her so long. She was walking very, very slowly. Her face was remarkably unwrinkled for 75, her eyebrows jet black, and her gray hair unnaturally robust. It didn’t occur to me until later that her hair might be a wig.
Her greeting was taciturn at best. I followed her into the house, taking a last look for the moment at her property which I mentally labeled “hillbilly compound” (judge me kindly, please). The county dump was neater and less overrun by sad-looking objects.
We entered the house by the cluttered kitchen and through the dining room while I heard about her three cats and three husbands. Later I learned about her three religions. We entered the front room. The one main wall of the room had been outfitted with a wooden shelving unit, fronted by Plexiglas.
When I read about Bitzi in the local paper, the reporter described her place as a doll museum. Museums conjure up organized collections, patterns of objects, on shelves. But these shelves were hardly organized. Perhaps at one time she had tried to organize because I did see small groupings of Kewpies, of Barbies, of baby dolls; but at some point she must have given up re-arranging and had resorted to tucking dolls into cases somewhat randomly.
I had sought out Bitzi when I realized that my own doll collection had defined itself into specific types of dolls. I was here because Bitzi said she had a huge Red Riding Hood collection and was interested in selling some. She also claimed to have a lot of Korean dolls, something I really wanted to see.
My Red Riding Hood dolls
We leisurely strolled through the front room, admiring dolls along the way. I thought of it as a “front room” instead of a living room because surely no one could actually live in a room walled by pairs of staring eyes. Next, we entered a side room with doll cases, a bedroom walled with what she called “boys’ toys” (confiding that this was her 2nd husband’s collection), and then eventually back across the house to what must have been her own bedroom.
By this point it was obvious to me that the only living spaces in the house were the tiny kitchen and the bed. Her 3rd husband must have spent most of his time outside.
I felt uncomfortable pressed between the doll case and her partially-made bed. The room smelled musty–like bedding or clothes not washed often enough. Some of her dolls were beautiful, some in bad condition, and most from the 20th century. I realized we had spent at least an hour in her house, but I had not seen one sign of a Red Riding Hood or Korean doll. Still, I’d seen hundreds and hundreds of dolls and some pretty cool toy trucks and cars.
Was this it then? Maybe she was lonely, so had told me she had dolls she didn’t really own. We walked back outside, crossing the porch area in front. I counted six small refrigerators stacked on the porch, along with numerous other appliances, tools, and junk. A sweet-looking black and white cat followed us briefly, while a gray cat sat licking its hindquarters on top of one of the refrigerators.
We went around to the other side of the house to what Bitzi referred to as the sun porch. She started to stumble on the high steps as one foot slipped out of the men’s corduroy bedroom slippers she was wearing. Once inside she showed me how they had walled up the sun porch from the rest of the house because the cats kept coming in. The plywood was unadorned.
The sun porch was one long room with perhaps one small window, hardly a “porch” of any kind. Near the entrance she had a diorama of witches, fairies, and other woodland creatures, created by a man she described as a hermit who lives in the mountains near Idyllwild. She also had a few of his magnificent dolls which looked like Queen Elizabeth clones.
The same shelves as in the house lined the walls of the tunnel-like porch, floor to ceiling, and dolls overwhelmed the shelves. She had lots of Ginnys, little fashionable dolls from the 1950s with movable arms and legs. One unit was stacked with Ginnys in boxes from floor to ceiling. Who could be enjoying dolls which were stacked in dust-covered boxes? She explained that the boxes didn’t have windows. I guessed that meant that sunlight couldn’t damage the dolls or their outfits. Almost every Madame Alexander doll ever made was on display in this area.
Bitzi asked me some personal questions such as did I have a job, what does my husband do, and she apologized for being so nosy. She talked about her life and herself. A self-confessed OCD “beauty addict,” she admitted that she couldn’t be “allowed out of the house” or she would buy whatever she liked.
By now I’d been nervously checking my watch every so often because I had to pick my kids up for after-school activities. I’d been with Bitzi over two hours. Finally, we were at the end of the porch. I sighed with relief and followed her outside. The fresh air was good when I inhaled deeply. The porch air had been stale and dusty.
“Well, thank you so much,” I said.
Bitzi threw her arm out and spun it, vaguely pointing to the barn and all the other outbuildings, as she did so. “Aren’t you going to see the rest of my dolls? We haven’t gotten to the Red Riding Hoods and the Korean dolls yet.”
Well, dear readers, I moved swiftly through the barn for the next hour, eventually buying a couple of dolls from my childhood era. In one room of the barn, 19th century oak furniture pieces were crammed together and every drawer was overflowing with doll parts. In one dresser, each drawer held legs, arranged by size by drawer. Another chest held arms and another heads. If only I’d had an iPhone in those days–and the nerve to snap some shots!
By now I knew my kids would be beside themselves and I absolutely had to leave. I promised Bitzi I’d be back another day to see the dolls in the other buildings–and particularly the Red Riding Hoods and the Korean dolls.
But I never went back. I never wanted to go back.
Unlike Bitzi, I can say no to dolls. I can set a boundary and usually stick to it. But something about witnessing the results of her passion obsession made me feel queasy. I want to always remember to know when enough is enough–of dolls and cats. Of anything. If I can’t say no to myself, how can I say no to anybody else when they ask for something unreasonable?
A few years later, Bitzi contacted me by letter, asking if I would be interested in buying parts of her collection as she was moving in with her children. I didn’t respond. I still feel like a heel about that.
More recently, I discovered that Bitzi was a famous doll collector. Her collection was eventually auctioned off by Theriault’s in 2008. Some of the dolls sold for thousands of dollars each. But what I saw that day at Bitzi’s was that she loved all the dolls equally: the $20 dolls and the $4,000 ones.
When I was in Michigan for my father’s funeral and to spend time with my mother, I organized the family photo albums and loose photos so that Mom could find her way in the basement. I took a couple albums home with me to digitize for her.
The first one I worked on is an album that my mother put together when she was 10 years old, so the photos are all from the 1940s.
I love to see that the kids had dolls. In this one, my aunt is holding her two Christmas dolls. This would be about 1946 or 47.
Here my mother and her siblings are with a couple of cousins. My mom is the tallest girl because she was the oldest of all the cousins. I don’t think my uncle is holding a doll. What IS that he’s got? A bow?
I love that crocheted shade pull you can see hanging in the window. Just another little touch that was part of my young life and slowly disappeared over the years.
Given a little time, I can probably figure out what dolls most of these are. Surprisingly, none of them look like Shirley Temple dolls–and those would have been very popular.
In this last photo (actually there are a few more, but the dolls and stuffed animals aren’t as visible), my aunt (age 6) is sitting with Pat (age 7), one of their cousins. Pat is the larger girl. Pat has a very important surgery coming up next month. If you are a praying sort, please put her on your prayer list.
Notice the wagon handle off to the side, showing they are sitting in a little red wagon. And the leather sandals and saddles shoes with the stretched out saggy socks. Sometimes I think there was more in common between my childhood and my mother’s than between mine and my kids’!
I’m not sure if all the girl cousins loved dolls, but the ones in these pictures seem to have enjoyed them.
Do you have any old photos of family members with dolls? Over on Pinterest I have a board of photos (particularly vintage and antique) of children with dolls.
I don’t intend to natter on about dolls all the time, but on Thursday I think I will share with you a doll story you might find interesting. Actually it’s about The Doll Empress. You thought The Doll Lady overdid the dolls in her house? Hah, she is nothing compared with The Doll Empress.