I love dolls. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.
I played in the woods and climbed trees. I swung on vines and rode my bike like a fiend. As with most things in my life, I could never decide on a direction. I was a tomboy that loved girlie-girl things.
At the end of the day, I loved my dolls. I had lots of stuffed animals that kept me company. I snuggled my teddy bear, Bruno, every night. I loved the heck out of my duck that I named, appropriately enough, Ducky. But when it came to play time, I was all about the dolls.
I had Barbie dolls: regular old Barbie, her little sister Skipper, Hispanic Barbie, Asian Barbie, a Barbie car, a Barbie plane, a Barbie boat, and a Barbie camper. Sadly, all of my Barbie gear has gone by the wayside.
I had the Sunshine Family. Do you remember them?
My sister had the Happy Family, the black version of the Sunshine Family. I say that because it was so long ago that the term “African-American” hadn’t even entered our vocabulary. I think my mom believed in equal opportunity playing even back then.
I also had my junior Dressy Bessy that taught me all the important things like zipping and tying and buttoning. Skills that I have since used quite frequently in life.
But the best dolls were the ones that looked like babies. True baby dolls. And I had plenty of them. In fact, I still do. I was recently going through the attic and found my old box of dolls. They were crammed into a beat-up, old cardboard box that was spilling open. I decided it was time to make some decisions.
I remember watching one of those cleaning shows a few years ago. I think it was Clean Sweep. They were trying to get people to let go of some of their stuff because they attached so many memories to their things. The point they made in the show, and it was a good one, was if something means something to you, treat it like it does.
So I decided it was time to bring my dolls out of the attic and figure out exactly what to do with them. I opened the box and took out some of the collectible dolls I had. Unfortunately, they aren’t in much of a collectible condition anymore because they haven’t been stored properly. And they didn’t hold much sentimental value to me. So off they went, to Craigslist.
(Okay, they are in the pile of things to be put on Craigslist but I’m working on it.)
The other dolls were all of my dolls. The ones I played with. The ones my sister and I played with: Baby Beth, Cathy Quick Curl, Timey Tell, Drowsy, Baby Tender Love, Snuggles. But what to do with then? The elastic in their clothes was dry rotted so most of them were half-naked. Their hair was all in knots. And some appeared to have dirt or some other strange substance that had stained the fabric bodies and some of the vinyl skin.
I sorted through them. I thought they could all be salvaged. Except Baby Beth. Her fabric body had been so badly stained by some mysterious brown substance. It almost looked like oil from her joints or something. I still don’t know. So I placed Baby Beth in the trash bag and continued sorting. But I couldn’t do it. I could NOT throw that doll away.
I threw her in the washing machine, along with all the doll clothes, and figured that whatever happens after the washing has got to be better than throwing her away (May I remind you that this was before I saw Toy Story 3?) She came out fresh and clean after I let her air dry. That was a close one.
When Christmas came, I just piled all the dolls in a plastic tub while I prepared for Christmas. After Christmas came and went, I decided it was time to do something.
As I was thinking about long-term storage (to what end, I don’t know yet), I thought it might be good to clean these dolls up and store them away nicely. I thought about cleaning the skin and hair and went to my best friend Google for advice.
Now. Here’s where I found out what I already suspected. Doll collectors take their dolls seriously. Very seriously. A little too seriously if you asked me. I always imagine a doll collector as an old maid who never married with her 29 cats and her lovely collection of porcelain dolls that she affectionately refers to as “her children.”
That may be true but these collectors know a thing or two about cleaning up these dolls. It turns out you should NEVER use regular shampoo on a doll with synthetic hair. That would make it too fluffy. You actually use Windex. Yes. The blue window cleaner in a spray bottle. And you know what? It work. I never knew my dolls had dirty hair but they did.
Then, you add just a touch of regular hair conditioner and rinse. And the hair is lovely and smooth. And then you brush it out with a pet brush because a HUMAN hairbrush should NEVER touch a doll’s hair. Something about the oils or whatever.
Oh, and synthetic hair is designed to return to it’s original curled state. Apparently using a curling iron will melt the hair. I would have hated to be in the room when a doll collector figured that one out. In fact, I’m thinking of replacing my hair with synthetic. A little Windex, a little conditioner, and I can have the exact same style every day.
Now let’s get to the creepy part. Because we’re not there yet.
As I’m sitting there, brushing out my dolls’ hair, I found myself enjoying it. It brought back this flood of memories of playing with my dolls and taking caring of them as a child. And I felt really happy. And then I knew, that I was glad I had saved them all these years.
And now it’s time to put their doll clothes back on and put them away because my husband is getting really creeped out by them staring at him every time he goes into the bathroom.
Just a thought.
It might be funny to line them all up on his side of the bed so they can watch him sleep. Make sure to do this while he’s still sleeping. You might be woken up suddenly when he wakes to find all those little eyes staring at him, but it would be worth it for the laugh.
I try to get my daughter dolls so I can live vicariously through her. I even brush their hair.
“Oh Kendyl, this baby needs her hair brushed! Don’t worry, mommy will do it!”
Yeah baby, seriously had a girl just for this part. 🙂
My son LOVES my Cabbage Patch preemie doll. No hair to brush but at least I get to have a little girlie fin 🙂
I remember loving my Sindy dolls (equivalent of Barbie in UK) and finding it totally exciting with friends to undress her and have her make love to an Action Man doll – apart from he had a smooth front in his genital region. I mean what kind of a biology lesson is that for young girls!
I think it’s kind of the unspoken secret that Barbie (or Sindy) did things that us pre-pubescent girls could only DREAM of. I always though Ken (our Action Man) was a little light in the loafers.
I think it’s totally ok that you are keeping your dolls. If you found old photos of your childhood you wouldn’t toss them. It’s the same concept. Even the smell of my dolls brings me to a place that I long for.
I had dark skinned dolls too but we called them ” The Chocolate Family “.
I LOVE that. The chocolate family. I never think about how skewed toys are towards a white world. We also had black Barbie dolls that we got when a local toy store was going out of business because they were the only ones left!
All my Barbies got passed on to my siblings and are still around. Now that I am having a girl? I have a feeling my mother will gladly throw them in a bag and make me take them with me. Along with the American Girl dolls that the twins (now 14 going on 15) collected. I look forward to the Barbies…they were my obsession.
I have one baby doll from my childhood. She was given to me by my abuela (grandmother) who has since passed and sits in a bin with no clothes and ratty hair. For some reason I named her Gallina, which is hen in Spanish. Maybe I should windex her hair and put on a dress and save her for my daughter??
Seriously, a little Windex and conditioner and you will be amazed. I’d love to hear if it brings back memories especially since you have all those crazy pregnancy hormones and emotions going on.
P.S. I think American Girl dolls are kind of creepy.
There are a couple I remember that you loved. You had “My Friend Jenny” and Tonya has “My Friend Mandy”. But a favorite of all time had to have been “Drowsy” with her many phrases: Mommy, I’m sleepy!; I want another drink of water! I go sleep now… night night! plus seven more. I am sure now you understand why she said them. Your writing today brings back many fond memories for me watching you and Tonya play together. Treasure your memories.
Once again, you are WRONG. I had all the “My Friend” dolls. I still have them upstairs. Jenny had brown hair and Mandy had blond hair. I still have Drowsy too. Sadly, she no longer whines. I mean, talks.
I don’t remember being a big doll person, but I was waaaaay into Barbies. My girls are doll people. They must have a bajllion of them in the play room. Even with that bajillion if my 4 year old ever has a choice at a store she will always pick a doll.
Now for the creepy part. We had a snow day on Wednesday. My four year old spent the afternoon playing with her dolls down in the playroom. She set them all up in their various apparatus and had them all circled around the CD player. As I was going to bed I remembered she had being playing down there so I went down to check to make sure everything had been turned off. It hadn’t. All the dolls were still in their “positions” and the CD player was stuck on repeat with an Irish Step Dancing song playing. Did I mention it was like midnight and I was the only one up. I quickly turned off the CD player and hightailed it back up the stairs!!!! Talk about Creepy!
I used to have to turn all my dolls around before going to sleep every night because their eyes would scare me! Some kid are scared of clowns, I guess I was scared of dolls… and pictures of dolls, they sometimes creep me out, too! But yes, of course I LOVED playing with dolls, too. And their yummy smell! And clothes!
Windex and conditioner. I never would have guessed it.
I used to have porcelain dolls when I was a kid (my parents gave me one each year for Christmas) and when I got married, I moved them all to my husband’s house with me. He made it through one night of “creepy eyes staring at him, plotting his death” (<–real quote) before they got boxed up and put in storage.
I had the Sunshine Family and Dressy Bessy too. Sadly all my dolls were STOLEN when I was about 6 or 7.