With this week’s rain and reflection, I’ve been feeling a lot like my cat Sugar looks above: curled in on myself.
I made a feeble attempt to express my feelings about Maurice Sendak’s passing earlier this week, but really, my words can’t express how much his words and images meant (and mean) to me. Every time I write with honesty, every time I write with respect for my audience, every time I write something that feels right and true and yet dark and dangerous, I hope I am in some small way honoring him.
My grandfather passed away two years ago this week, so this month in general is a little tough for me. He was many things to me and to everyone who knew him, but he was best known for his tremendous work ethic and his ingenuity. He was always ready to help others, and he was known as the guy who could fix anything. So when I broke the leg off of my favorite Darci doll while trying to bend her into a cheerleader split (a move I’ve never been able to do, so I can’t blame the doll for her failure), and came crying to my mother, she knew what to do.
“We’ll bring it to Papa,” she said. “He’ll know how to fix it.”
I hadn’t been without the doll for any extended period of time, so it was difficult to give her up when we dropped her off at my grandparents’ house. But I could tell by the way my grandfather examined Darci and her disarticulated limb that everything was going to be okay. Surely, Papa would know how to fix it.
A week went by before he called to tell us the doll was ready. To say I had been counting the hours would not be an understatement. And when we arrived at my grandparents’ house, and the doll was presented to me, she was fixed, as promised. Unfortunately, she was a little too fixed. After much deliberation, my grandfather’s solution was to drill a hole straight through Darci’s pelvis, insert a screw, and tighten a bolt at one end. This reattached the limb, but rendered the doll completely immobile from the waist down.
I thanked my grandfather, and reserved my objections for the car ride home. But of course, to my mother, I had nothing to complain about. My doll was fixed, wasn’t it? It had only one attached leg when I dropped it off, and now it had two. Like many other times in my life, then and now, I had to be happy with the hand (or in this case, leg) I’d been dealt.
When Darci and I got home, it was clear her (and my) challenges were far from over. I tore several of her glamorous outfits until I realized not much would fit over her bolted pelvis. I couldn’t pose her as I had before, or even really walk her around, so her interactions with my other dolls and my friends’ dolls involved hopping, and eventually, a lot of sitting. A few months later, my mother caved and bought me a new Darci doll, so the old one became Janet, Darci’s beautiful, though tragically paraplegic, identical twin sister. As you might imagine, Janet added a LOT of drama to the stories I concocted at playtime. I suppose I can be thankful to my grandfather for that, too, among so many other things.
do they make a Disability Barbie these days? I think you may be onto something there…but actually, I hear a picture book in the making with Bring It to Papa…love that image : )
I’ll get right on it, Anne — the book idea, I mean! : )
#1–Your grandfather was a gift! I can remember your mom asking him for ideas to repair/reclaim/recycle things we had at work.
#2–I remember seeing an ad for a Barbie (or Midge, or one of “them”) in a wheelchair a few years ago, but then I believe it was taken off the market. There are times when reality is TOO real, and not wanted as part of a young girl’s playtime.
Clearly, you would not have wanted to bear witness to the stories my friends and I made up for our dolls, Eve! : )