January 22, 2008
Candy heart and zombie smile
I've loved Raggedy Ann since I was four years old. When I was young, she and Andy were my constant companions. I still have the original dolls, tucked in a box somewhere in my basement, but their faces, hair, limbs, and clothes have been replaced so many times that they look almost nothing like the originals. I slept with those dolls every night for years, and they came with me when I went to college. My brother, during his annoying younger brother teasing stage which lasted for years on account of the fact that he had four sisters, used to scare me at night by saying, "What would happen if the house caught on fire and you jumped out the window and forgot to bring Raggedy Ann and Andy?" I'd be so worried about this possibility that I couldn't fall asleep unless I was clutching both dolls.
As I got older, Red-haired Sister and I played dolls often, usually every night when it was time to go to bed. Sometimes Blonde Sister or my brother would join in, but more often than not, it was just the two of us. "Playing dolls" was mostly a form of story-telling for which the actual presence of the dolls wasn't really necessary. We'd shift back and forth, taking turns in the narrative we were weaving.
"Pretend-like we decide to visit a cabin in the woods."
"I know! Pretend-like the cabin belongs to us."
"Pretend-like someone died and left it to us."
"An old aunt or something."
"Aunt Clarissa. She died and left us a cabin, and it's not sad because we never knew her. We just got a letter in the mail saying we own this cabin now."
"Pretend-like it's a log cabin with two fireplaces."
"In the mountains."
"Pretend-like we get snowed in."
"Pretend-like we find a kitchen filled with supplies so we decide to make a big meal and just stay over night."
"Pretend-like we bring in wood from the woodpile and make two big fires."
"And we notice a trapdoor on the ceiling"
"Pretend-like we decide to stand on a chair and open the trap door."
"Pretend-like we find a big attic room."
"And it's filled with big trunks."
"And we decide to open the trunks to see what's in them."
We could go on for hours with this kind of narrative.
I hadn't thought about Raggedy Ann in ages, but on Christmas Eve at my parents' house this year, Red-haired Sister gave me a present to open.
"I'm a grown-up, " I said in surprise. "I don't get a present."
She said, in the kind of voice you'd use with a small child. "Well, sometimes if you've been good, you do."
Inside the wrapped gift was a Raggedy Ann doll! I checked immediately to make sure she had a heart that said, "I love you." My sister laughed when she saw me taking off the flowered dress to check. "That's the first thing I checked too." The doll now sits on the desk in my home office, taking a special place of honour, along with the seashells, feathers, rocks, and snakeskins that litter the edges of my bookshelves and desk.
I decided to take a photo of her for my blog, hoping that the familiar doll would stir up memories for those of my readers who are old enough to remember when rag dolls were far more exciting than any kind of computer game. I showed the photo to my kids, thinking somehow that I could share my warm, fuzzy feelings of nostalgia with three teenage boys.
Shaggy Hair took one look and said, "Wow, that's creepy."
"Creepy?" I said in surprise.
He learned over and took a closer look. "Yeah, creepy."
He shuddered. "That smile."
His brothers came over to peer at my laptop screen. "Scary," said With-a-Why.
Puzzled, I showed the photo to Film Guy. I can count on him to give a balanced and rational analysis of any kind of image. He took one look at the screen and laughed.
"Yeah, that's creepy. And the lamp makes it even worse. It's like a scene in a horror film. It's late at night, you've got only one light on, and there — under the single lamp — the doll is waiting ...."
Posted by jo(e)