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The Last Doll

Published in ChicagoNow, September 8, 2017

You either love dolls or hate them. I am definitely in the doll-lovers camp. My mother adored bald kewpie dolls, but clearly, I preferred dolls with hair.

I remember my last doll. My parents asked me after an emergency appendectomy at age ten what I wanted, and I proudly staked my claim to the Tiny Tears doll I coveted. I loved feeding her doll bottles of water and watching her cry “real” tears. I suppose wanting this doll when I was that old said something about my maturity. By the next year, Tiny Tears was relegated to my closet.

Tiny Tears – watch her cry “real” tears

Both of my daughters were also doll fans. They had a series of Madame Alexander dolls, but their favorites were two baby dolls. The first one was christened Baby Louis and the fancy Victoria doll had the even stranger name, Present Baby. A friend of my older daughter received the same doll for her second birthday and that’s what she called it, so the name made sense to my girls. Present Baby hung around for a long time as the bedtime buddy. In fact, I’m pretty sure each of my daughters had a second one after the first one disintegrated due to excessive love.

Baby Louis has survived almost 40 years of love

My mother bought my daughters fancier Madame Alexander dolls for their birthdays, but none survived the constant changes of outfits and hair grooming. I’m pretty sure one of them was subjected to a haircut as well. The point is, they played with them all of the time. Even when Barbies entered their lives, the dolls still held prominent positions on the shelves and in their hearts.

My first four grandchildren were girls, so I loved gifting them with dolls. Aside from the baby dolls, Madame Alexander had been replaced by American Girl as the go-to doll. But time has flown by and, sadly for me, only the youngest of my granddaughters, who is turning eleven, still wants a doll for her birthday. She is more of a collector than a player, but I’m pretty confident the doll she wants (because the rest of her “girls” are blonde and she wants one with dark hair) will be the last.

Where do the years go? I remember giving her a generic American Girlish doll I purchased from Sam’s Club when she was six to see if she really wanted these dolls. She was thrilled and decided she needed a special name —Mary Chandelier. Don’t ask. I think she had just learned the word chandelier and thought it sounded elegant. By the time she was seven, she wanted the real thing. Thus, we began the collection that will end with this doll.

I’m feeling wistful that so much of my granddaughters’ childhood is receding, to be replaced by iPhones, texting, and music videos. I guess I can retire my dress up box and princess accessories from the playroom I have for them in my house. Even the doll house is gathering dust.

While I’m glad my granddaughter who is about to receive her last doll survived the Disney Princess period and emerged from it a strong, young preteen, there is a part of me that will miss the magic of watching her delight over birthday dolls. This will be the last one. No more tea parties and doll play dramas. We have moved on, but I will cherish the memories of our shared love of dolls.


by Laurie Levy
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