January 22, 2008

Candy heart and zombie smile

Candy heart

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 ...."


Anonymous said...

stupid boys. She looks sweet to me!

Songbird said...


Gawdess said...

now normally I would be the first to think such a thing but this picture is cozy and warm.

Cathy said...

I was Raggedy Ann in a 3rd grade Christmas play. I sang the song "I'm just a rag doll, so limpedy limp. So limpety limpety limp. My head, my shoulders, my knees, my toes, go limpety limpety limp. I'm just a rag doll, so limpety limp. So limpety limpety limp.

I don't really know if that is the way you spell limpety.

My Raggedy Ann wig was made of one of my mother's old stockings with yarn sewed to it to make a wig.

There was a Raggedy Andy in the play too. :)

susan said...

That doll looks adorable.

RageyOne said...

All I see is a Raggedy Ann doll! No creepiness at all. Must be a guy thing.

Yankee, Transferred said...

I love this photo.

MJ said...

I don't think it's creepy at all.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

isn't it funny how things don't always translate between generations.

undine said...

She didn't look scary to me, but then, her name isn't Talking Tina.

concretegodmother said...

Silly boys. Kids these days. They've been conditioned by too many horror flicks.

I love this photo and I love the post even more. How I miss pretend-like! It was our way (collective "our") of spinning personal fairy tales and dreams. Oh boy, you jettisoned me back to a different age just now! My tummy was tickling just reading your pretend-like narrative.

We had more plastic baby dolls than rag dolls, though I did make one once (dreaded sewing practice) and my LittleSis had a Holly Hobbie doll which she played with until an unknown someone wiped a booger on it one day, and forever after it was tainted.

I think I like your Red-haired Sister.

Tall Girl said...

We didn't have R-As in England but I had a family of three handmade rag dolls with hair of yellow thread which I adored, and even took to church and up to the altar rail to be blessed by our very kindly priest...

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I love the still life photo and I loved the doll and the story until I got to the creepy part and then I went back and looked and my it did look a little creepy. Weird. because the first time I looked, it looked warm and comforting. Weird how people's opinions can affect how we see soemthing.

YourFireAnt said...

It IS creepy! AGHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!


Kyla said...

Awww, I love that story.

And the creepy thing is pretty funny, too.

sk said...

Jo(e), I enjoy reading your blog everyday, but today I wanted to comment because this reminds me so much of my own three boys! They are much younger than yours, but very similar in personality. I love the way your writing reflects your affection for your boys, and the way you nurture their individuality.

liz said...

In my circle it was, "make-believe".

"Make-believe we're Laura and Mary Ingalls and we have to bring in the whole wood pile."

And I don't think Raggedy Ann is at all creepy.

Anonymous said...

LOL! Maybe you should have asked A GIRL! Check with your daughter and see what she says! :D

Nadine said...

Not creepy. Sis and I had lots of dolls and stuffed animals and were very inventive with their story lines. What fun we had!

readersguide said...

Not creepy.

Lomagirl said...

Not creepy at all. My sis had an Ann and I had an Andy. The stories were the best- the dolls were alive in this land of candy trees and chocolate fountains. Remember those?

jo(e) said...

lomagirl: To this day, I feel disappointed when I walk in the woods and don't come across hotdog bushes or ice cream soda fountains that spring naturally up among the trees.

nimiecat said...

Ok, I love Ragedy, too. But must admit that there was a time when she would creep me out at night. Just sitting there in the old toy high chair next to my bed.

My Mother just finished reading my Radgedy Ann bood to my 3 year old. Then Gave her a GIANT Ragedy for Christmas. She sits in a childs rocking chair next to Gin's bed. I wonder if it gives her the creeps, too.

comebacknikki said...

I used to love Raggedy Ann, but I can definitely see the creepiness factor. It's all very Dead Silence.

I had a life-size one when I was a kid and I used to make it stomp on all of my Barbies. :)

Lila said...

I love your story jo(e), but sorry, I also found the doll a little creepy (and I'm a girl), at least in the photo. The eyes and the smile, staring at me...it reminds me of Chucky, just a little.

argon(one) said...

yep . . . she's creepy. I can almost her her laughing.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Wasn't creepy until people pointed it out...

I was Raggedy Ann for Halloween when I was in preschool. My Mom made a wig for me out of red yarn and I'm not sure where she found that white apron. It was my favourite costume. (I liked it much better than the previous year's costume -- the Transformer Optimus Prime, because someone had given a couple of masks to my parents and my sister claimed the Donald Duck one.)

Kathryn said...

Your boys are right. It's the clown-esque face, for me....Brrrrrr