That Doll

I had my reasons.

That’s what I told my son when he called angry with me for putting Christie’s doll in the burning can.  I hadn’t heard him that hot since I told Judy Wakeland that he had taken a shining to her youngest daughter.

When I got off the phone, I looked to see if Jody was still out burying the heifer that died that morning.  I saw his old yellow pick-up at the edge of the pasture and felt grateful for a minute to collect myself. I never told him about the call.

"Baby I know that we've got trouble in the fields..."

That summer was a scorcher. We watched helplessly as corn withered in sun-burnt husks, and tomatoes went from green to rotten in a single afternoon. The worst day was always Sunday because I had to wear nylons, and there was too much time between hymns to worry about money and Jody’s cough. That cough didn’t sound good. I kept asking Jody to see Dr. Goodall, but he just mumbled about cutting out salt, which meant we couldn’t go to the picture show because you can’t have popcorn without salt, and you can’t watch a picture without popcorn.

Christie had come to stay with us right after her third birthday. I had been eyeing a doll at Marchman’s all spring.  The one I could afford had a pink pinafore, Shirley Temple curls, and black Mary Janes.  She was the prettiest doll under $12.00 that was brand new. I thought Paul’s girl should have a new doll, so I bought her with money from our tax return.

At first, Christie was shy, but she warmed up when she saw my candy dish full of stuck-together Fig Newtons. Her sweet tooth!  I started praying that summer that she would turn out skinny like her mama. The world isn’t good to big girls, especially in the city where there’s no use for extra meat on the bone.

Christie always had that doll– not the new one I bought her, but her old one that looked like the devil himself up and beat it about the head.  Christie had loved the hair clean off her head.

Looking at that doll spoiled my appetite.  I knew everyone was making a fool out of Christie, letting her drag that ugly thing around.

One time I heard Dolly Parton on TV talking about growing up so poor that her only toy was a corn cob doll.  Dolly was giggling and making it sound good, but I knew her laughter was a lie.  There’s nothing funny about having a doll made of food no one wants to eat.  I changed the channel.

So I did it.

Early that morning before Christie woke up, I took her sad doll straight to the burning can. I was still in my nightgown.  I was tired of looking at her and remembering things I tried hard to forget.

I wanted to eat some biscuits and bacon, and see pretty things.  Everything else—I wanted to burn.

I had my reasons.
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62 thoughts on “That Doll

    • I think so. It’s been incredibly healing to imagine that there is a deeply loving reason why someone might do something that seemed so cruel and senseless. And as a parent, I can only hope my kids one day might try to cast some of my actions in a love light, instead of a mean light. TIme will tell. I think I gotta earn that.

  1. I think the first thing I want to say is that when I read the first few lines and knew for sure that this story was indeed coming from your grandmother’s perspective, I got excited. Very excited!
    I think you used her voice well. The thoughts and the words she used seemed very believable from the beginning.
    You did a great job with this story too, and I am really glad that you chose to write it.

    As a little side note, I find myself behaving similarly to your grandma on occasion. It’s no secret that I also grew up very poor, and now that we are very comfortable financially I find myself forgetting that there are emotional attachments to objects and that not everything can be replaced. Especially in the eyes of my sons.
    Your stories were a great reminder to me and I appreciate that. 🙂

    Great job!

  2. As the parent of adult children (not sure how THAT happened!), I can tell you that if you raise them with love and compassion, that is how they will remember their growing up. My kids occasionally tell me that I carry around too much guilt about my parenting skills, that they don’t remember all the mistakes that loom so large in my memory. If you’re raising your family with the insight you show in your writing, you don’t need to worry about them casting their memories in a love light instead of a mean light. The love light is what will come naturally to them.

  3. Oh, you! Well done! I am so knee deep in work right now but when I saw that your link was called “That Doll” and I was SO moved by your entry last week, I just had to stop what I was doing and read this. It did not disappoint! I see the makings of a really amazing book here….

  4. ohhhh i LOVE what you did here. i love that you continued on with last week’s piece, i love the new perspective, i love the photo you chose. really great piece.

  5. I think that this post is, perhaps, even more brave than last week’s because of the challenge of writing in another voice and perspective about an event with a lot of emotional meaning to you. Well done!!

  6. You are spot on with this, Christie. I can see and hear Virginia through this post. She was one of a kind and you captured her perfectly. Keep up the amazing work!

  7. Great job, mama. Loved you writing in your grandma’s voice. I swear I could hear her, accent and all.

    This line really got to me: “There’s nothing funny about having a doll made of food no one wants to eat.”

    P.S. I had that Shirley Temple doll and she was nowhere near as cool as Blue Baby.

  8. Ya’ll, I just noticed that the picture of the corn looks like an erect naughty bit. Sorry for mixing up lots of different images and styles. Grandma was Southern Baptist, she would not approve of erect corn.

  9. I’m choosing to leave that naughty bit alone for a moment to say that I truly enjoyed hearing your take on Grandma’s side. Loved the descriptions, the harshness of the life, land and emotions. You’ve outdone yourself again, mama! 🙂

  10. I just loved this Christie! And count me as one of your followers who wants to hear from Blue Baby! I gave my old My-Friend-Mandy doll to Mia when she turned 2…..she loves her but my husband is just looking for the opportunity to make her disappear! 🙂

  11. Blue baby, blue baby! You did it again! Beautifully written and crafted. Grandma was quite a character – I could feel her pride, her shame and her mixed up kind of love for you. Love the idea of this being a chapter in a book (your future short story anthology!).

  12. This is superb. I read it through a few times. I love this. I love that you told it in your grandmother’s voice and I can feel her emotion. But I can feel yours coming through, reacting to her words even though it’s not from your point of view. Excellent.

  13. I’m so glad you brought it around and tried to imagine it from her point of view. You make her a sympathetic character, and I love how you managed to write her voice. I know I couldn’t do that for any of my grandparents. This is the perfect counterpoint to the previous post.

  14. wonderful to hear the other perspective – and convincing, too. (altho i still think your brother was involved). I think Dolly might be guilty of a little rosy-colored retrospective perspective, myself, but her voice here gives weight to your story.

  15. Pingback: Blue Baby’s Side of the Story | Outlaw Mama

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