Sometimes I wonder why I save some stuff. Dennis and I have done a huge downsizing of “stuff,” but there are a few things of which I can’t seem to let go, namely my dolls. I have five dolls from my childhood that are near and dear to me. It made me start thinking about the playing I did as a child. How much of who we are is acted out in our playing as a child?
My sisters were 4 and 6 years older than me, so I didn’t really have sibling playmates. They played together, and I pretty much played alone. I loved to play with my dolls. My sisters had Saucy Walker dolls, and I wanted one also. When I was 6 years old, I asked Santa for one, the same year I asked Santa for a baby brother. I think I got the smaller version of the doll, and I did not receive a baby brother! I had a plastic/vinyl baby doll that you could bottle feed water—she had a hole at her mouth, and a hole, well, you know where. She apparently had a tube of some sort running from top to bottom, so the water went in one end and out the other. I thought that was pretty cool. Really? A peeing doll was cool? I had little cloth scraps for diapers and I suppose little pins because in those days pins were not considered a dangerous thing—today it would have had snaps or velcro. I also had a doll with a vinyl head and a mushy body. It could wear infant sized clothes, so I loved that doll. This doll was like having a real thing! Oh, how our imaginations worked as children. We had no idea the work of a real baby, but we were good at pretending what we thought that was about.
One of my dolls I currently own is not my original. I am sure my parents tossed it out as I outgrew it. It was a doll, though, that I remembered loving. It was a Howdy Doody wood doll. The story of that doll was that my parents were going to Detroit, Michigan for a wedding when I was about two or three years old. They dropped us girls off at my grandparents, and I apparently did one of those little kid things where I bawled my eyes out at them leaving me. The solution was to grab the clothes they packed for me and take me along on their trip. Somewhere between St. Louis and Detroit, I received my Howdy Doody doll, and my mom took a photo of me with it. It is still one of my favorite photos. The doll was long gone, but around 2001 I
started thinking about this doll, probably because I ran across the photo. I decided to search on that new thing called the internet and eBay to see if I could find this doll. I found the first on an auction site. The doll was brand new in the box found in someone’s attic and part of an estate sale. They wanted $400 for the doll. That was out of my price range. I checked continually on eBay for weeks. This doll must be rare because there were many Howdy Doody dolls on the site for sale, but not this particular one. I finally found the doll, was concerned about the price, and noticed that the doll was just about 10 miles from my home. I waited for the auction to end, and no one bought the doll. I sent a note to the person listing because I wanted the doll and did not want to pay
shipping. I purchased the doll for much less than $400, and picked it up. Howdy was missing his scarf and belt, but I was okay with that because I figured that over the years, it would be missing from mine since I played with it a lot. The doll is sitting on my book shelf with the photo of me holding the doll. I cannot yet part with it—it is a part of my his
I have four dolls all manufactured by the Vogue Doll Company. They are the Jill, Jeff, Ginny, and Littlest Angel dolls. Jill, Ginny, and Littlest Angel have pretty much the same facial features, but the dolls were different sizes. I played with my Jill, Jeff, and Ginny together. I imagined Jeff was either Jill’s boyfriend or husband, and Ginny was her little sister or daughter. Today I was researching these dolls and discovered that Jeff was
supposed to be Jill’s brother! Yuck! No! I have several outfits for these dolls. There was a real joy of going to the local department store and looking at new outfits. They came in little boxes and usually had everything including the shoes that went with the new outfit. I was in little girl heaven!
I spent hours playing dolls. I had a little area in the basement near where my mom did laundry that had my miniature kitchen appliances and doll beds, where I played with my baby dolls. I dressed them and pretended to visit relatives and go to church—which were the main activities of my family. I think I pretended to be my mom. She loved us girls, and I loved my baby dolls.
As I got older the “teenage” dolls were my friends. My cousins also had the Jill, Jeff, and Ginny, so we played them together. I loved changing their clothes. Today little girls just buy another Barbie with a different outfit and hair—I don’t get that.
Paper dolls were also my favorite. I would go with my mom to the drug store on Saturday evening to pick up the Sunday paper. While there I would stop at the paper doll rack and admire the beautiful paper dolls. My favorites were my Lennon Sisters paper dolls because instead of getting two identical paper dolls like most sets, I got one each of Dianne, Peggy, Kathy, and Janet. Of course, I needed my “boy paper dolls” and Pat Boone was my favorite for that even though I had two identical looking Pat Boone’s! It took hours to carefully cut out all the clothes. I would store them together in a shoe box. I played for hours with these paper dolls.
Sixty years later, I think about this pretend play. I cannot even imagine the conversations all my dolls (vinyl and paper) had with each other. I cannot imagine the scenarios I had in playing with them. The only thing I can remember is the warm feeling I had sitting on the floor in my bedroom, pretending whatever I was pretending while playing with those dolls.
Other than the occasional playing school where I was teaching imaginary kids or playing elevator operator with my sliding closet doors, most of my playing time was with these dolls and paper dolls.
I wonder what little girls play today? I only had boys, so I don’t even know what girls played 30 or 40 years ago. I see things advertised on television today, and I wonder if they just play monsters and space ships and multiple Barbies. My play was always about real life—being a teacher, being a mom, being part of corporate America—yes, I loved the elevator operators at our favorite department store. I thought they were so knowledgable that they knew what was on each of the eleven floors as they announced it opening the door for our exit.
I think my imagination played a roll in who I became as an adult. I got to do all the things I played about as a child. I got to live my dreams. As a child, I think I was just playing for fun, but today I realize that I also played who I wanted to be when I grew up.
What was your play like as a child? What did you imagine? What things did you play that you can say influenced who you are today?