I’ve seen a number of pictures on blogs lately showing off Raggedy Ann Dolls. This gives me a real pang since it brings to my mind a tale of Ann’s lost to times gone by. Specifically, Raggedy Ann’s made for me by my Aunt Jeannie.
When I was a child, I loved the Raggedy Ann she had made for me. She had black button eyes and her eyelashes and nose and mouth were all embroidered. She even had a heart embroidered on her chest which only I knew about because it was under her dress. Oh, yeah. I loved my Raggedy Ann. I loved her till her fabric wore through and her stuffing slipped out.
I mentioned once before that when what was on the inside migrated to the outside, my mother thought it was time to throw something out. (Years later I wondered if it was growing up in the depression that made my mother so adamant about what was “good” and what was “worn out”). When my Raggedy Ann started leaving parts of herself behind, my mother threw her out.
What?! I snuck out and rescued her from the trash can and hid her in my room. Of course, after a while, I left her lying about and my mother, with some annoyance, noticed she was back. She threw her out again. I rescued her again. Until one time, I didn’t rescue her in time. Oh, I was mad. And I (rather ostentatiously) mourned.
Aunt Jeannie to the rescue. She made me another Raggedy Ann. But it wasn’t the same. Her facial features were drawn on. There was no secret heart. Her button eyes just weren’t as shiny and black. I appreciated her but I didn’t love her. And during one of my college moves, I carelessly left her behind (for which, of course, I now kick myself).
So, of course, years (decades) later when I got more serious about sewing, I had to make myself a doll. Not a Raggedy Ann but an angel with a pretty dress and painted on shoes, with tea-dyed lace and tiny roses on her bloomers. She was the first doll I had ever made and I was pretty darn impressed with myself. I brought her over to show my mother. Who was also impressed.
“Isn’t she nice?” my mother said, patting the hair and admiring the bloomers. We stood at her dining room table which opened onto the living room and she gazed up speculatively.
“Uh,” I said. “Her dress goes perfectly with your couch, doesn’t it?”
“I guess she better stay here.”
“I guess she better.”
And that was that. But I didn’t mind. Every time I came to visit, my doll was there on the couch. My mom was not a knick-knacky kind of person so my doll was really getting a position of honor, I knew. My mother informed me that the bridge ladies had been very impressed and the consensus was that this angel had quite the personality (quite pleased with herself, they said).
“Her name is Lulu Belle,” my mother told me.
Now Lulu Belle is back with me. Because my mother cherished her, she means more to me nearly than I can say. When I was a child, my mother taught me to sew. Now simply opening a Simplicity pattern and hearing the rustle of tissue paper brings an onslaught of nostalgia: Mom with pins in her mouth smoothing out the fabric while determining how the pattern pieces would lay (because who ever took the pattern’s advice?), the sound of scissors knocking against the table and slicing through fabric, the hum of the machine. I only have one regret with having a book published and that is that my mother is not here to see it. It would have made her terribly proud and all of her friends would have known about it.
So, Lulu Belle sits in my sewing room and brings a watchful spirit over the proceedings.
But she is not alone. I have a friend who for many years was a doll maker. I was going through a rough patch at the time and she made me this beautiful spirit doll. She looks out with such kindness. She says, “Gently now.”
My same doll maker friend was planning a doll workshop for her church. Participants would make a doll meant to represent one’s inner self. I was a pattern tester. So, I started pulling fabric from my drawers and totally surprised myself when a leopard print was the one that spoke to me (shouted, even). I had been expecting something quiet. I thought I’d add some embroidery, perhaps symbolic charms. But no. A leopard print.
You have to understand. I am not a snazzy dresser. When I was a teen, I was a serious clothes horse but, nowadays? I hate to shop. My idea of a shopping venture is to go find some simple, innocuous pullover and then buy it in five shades. If I’m lucky, I can be in and out of the store in under a half hour.
But, look, here she is: in all her snazzy glory.
It cheers me up immensely to know that my inner self is actually a somewhat mischievous diva with absolute confidence and a killer fashion sense. I love her madly, too.
So, in my sewing room, I am always accompanied by these three guardian spirits: they offer mother love, friendship and understanding, and the gleaming awareness that there’s always a little more to me than shows on the surface. They are very wise and I try to listen.