More Than A Naked Doll (A Moving Memoir on Perspective)
More Than A Naked Doll (A Moving Memoir on Perspective)
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Today’s post is another true story about the amazing shift in perspective of a daughter after she finds out the true importance of her 22-year-old, naked Cabbage Patch doll.
“I brought some things that belong to you,” my mother said, as she handed me a box of personals that I’d long since forgotten about. I took the box and smiled, as I sat down on the sofa of my new home, and felt a wave of excitement washed over me. It was almost like Christmas, opening this box of unknowns, and I was eager to dig inside.
I can’t remember now one thing in that box other than the naked Cabbage Patch doll that I held up in disgust.
“Seriously, Mom?” I sneered, with contorted eyebrows and a roll of the eyes. “The last thing I need is another doll. We have enough toys around here and there’s no room for anymore — especially a raggedy Cabbage Patch with no clothes!”
“It’s yours. I really want you to keep it. It means a lot to me,” Mom whispered, and I noticed she was starting to well up, but I chose to ignore it.
Now, my mom has always been sentimental and often has a hard time parting with things, but this — this just got me fired up. I stood up with the doll in my hand, hanging it by her stringy yellow hair made of yarn, and snorted,
“Well, if it means so much to you, then you keep it!”
Mom could no longer fight back those welling tears, and they began to stream down her face. I admit, I too, am a bit on the sentimental side, but this? No, this was ridiculous. Why on Earth was this 22-year-old doll who reeked of the dusty attic she’d called home for close to two decades, causing an argument between the two of us?
“I’m not keeping this doll, Mom,” I said through gritted teeth. I was standing my ground on this one, and by now, my dad decided he’d step in, and I was thankful he was on my side.
“Susan, if she doesn’t want it, just leave it alone,” he coaxed. I could see the frustration in his eyes and the complete sadness in my mom’s.
But, I had won the battle, and I felt proud.
I’d always been afraid of fire trucks, probably because the sirens screamed so loudly it made me wince, as if in pain, and cover my ears for protection from the piercing pitch. Likely, somewhere deep inside, I may have been aware, at the tender age of 5, that fire trucks also brought along a certain danger you could be sure of.
On this particular August day, surrounded by the safety of the indoors, I wasn’t afraid of the fire truck I could hear approaching. In fact, I even ran to the living room window in hopes of catching a glimpse of it drive by. Growing up in a small community you don’t get to see this often, so to a five year old little girl, it was pretty exciting stuff.
Sitting on the ledge of the window sill, with my blonde hair in the tight pigtails my mom put in with expertise each morning, I waited. When I think back now, I’m not sure if it was reality or something my five-year-old mind made up, but I believe I had a premonition that morning. Not that I would have understood what that even meant at the time, but as the blaring warning sound of the big red tank wailed louder and louder, an eerie feeling overcame me. I watched the dazzling, red, flashing lights fly by and immediately ran into the kitchen.
“Where do you think they are going?” I asked my mom, who was busy at the sink and hadn’t put a second thought into the fire truck that had just passed by. Whether she answered me or not I really don’t remember, but somehow I believe I already knew the answer. Then, when the phone rang seconds later, something in my body just knew it wasn’t good.
As the loud ring of the phone buzzed from the wall it sat upon, I just stood there, frozen. My mom picked up the receiver and I stared at the long green coil that bounced as she paced. I didn’t understand the one-sided conversation, but I could tell by the panic on my mother’s face that something wasn’t right.
My mother and I had been home alone that day and since she didn’t have a license, we needed to wait for a drive. Although it was less than a twenty-minute walk, that option wasn’t even considered. Instead, we put on our shoes and simply waited. The next little while is a bit of a blur now, so I can’t remember if it was my Uncle Bobby, or perhaps my Aunt Bev, who picked us up that day. As we drove down Brooklyn Street I could still hear the sirens in the distance. Even though the drive was literally less than two minutes from home, it seemed to take forever to reach our destination. When we finally pulled into my grandparents’ yard, I got out of the car, not fully understanding the extent of what was happening.
Intense flames were licking at the window panes, some of which the firefighters had already smashed from the outside. I was ordered to get into my grandfather’s car and not get out, no matter what. I obeyed, and sat, watching in awe, from the rear window.
My cousins, Amy and Sasha, watched alongside me in the back seat of Grampie’s car. Their tear-stained faces confused me. They were safe in the car my grandfather always called Old Bessie — so why were they crying?
We all peered silently as the flames continued to consume the big farm house that I built many memories in, in my short life so far. I watched on as my mom, my aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents all sobbed. Although I didn’t know why, I started crying, too. Everyone seemed frozen in time, watching helplessly as the red-hot inferno took control and sucked up the hard work and life my nan and grampie had taken years to build.
I may have watched for minutes, maybe hours. Time meant nothing.
Once the fire was completely extinguished, we were allowed inside. This likely happened the next day, but I don’t really remember.
I was curious, almost excited, to see the insides of a burnt structure. We entered the blacked porch where my grandmother’s bird cage always hung. We moved into the kitchen that I can still remember with great detail after all the years of going to our weekly Sunday-family-dinners. On the kitchen table to my left, situated by a window that looked onto the front yard, I spied the sugar bowl. Intrigued at its darkened colour, I got closer to inspect it. The sides were melted from the intense heat and the sugar inside had turned into a crispy black chunk, that would have shattered at the slightest touch. I was completely fascinated.
Next, we walked into the dining room. I remember my grandmother marvelling over these coins in a hutch that had not been consumed by the fire. As some people moved to the right, checking on the damage to the living room, I moved to the left, down a little hall, towards a set of stairs. These led to the second level. Disappointingly, I was forbidden to step on them. Although I already knew the entire house was destroyed, I wanted to see with my own eyes whether the upstairs looked as bad as the downstairs.
For days afterward, the smell of the burnt house filled my nostrils. I had smelled fire and smoke before, but nothing smells like the smell I had burning my senses that day. Sometimes, out of nowhere, I get a whiff of that peculiar smokey scent still, and it’s almost haunting.
“But you wanted that doll so badly, Rachel,” my mom said, remembering the job she had trying to buy a Cabbage Patch Kid over two decades prior. Here’s the thing: Cabbage Patch Kids were a hot commodity back then, and without the luxuries of today’s technology (or the ability to drive to the city in an attempt to get one), if you weren’t one of the lucky people the day they went on the market, then you had yourself a sad little child at Christmas.
Looking back now, I don’t even know what angered me so much that day, about that stupid doll. I was so upset and consumed with myself that I looked right past the heartfelt reason my mom wanted me to keep her.
Miraculously, in the horror of that fiery destruction back in August, 1984, a little Cabbage Patch doll with yellow stringy hair made of yarn, sat in the upstairs of my grandparents’ house, completely unharmed, package and all. Four months later, an unknowing little girl with tight blonde pigtails woke up to the best Christmas present ever — a Cabbage Patch doll.
Feel free to leave a comment down below, or share a time when you had a shift in perspective.
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