I had heard from second years in my graduate program that during the semester that “spare time” would not be in my vocabulary; my clinic supervisor for this semester promised us all that we would feel “one gulp away from drowning” during our entire time here. I honestly didn’t think it would be THAT bad. But it was everything they had promised and more, hence my extended absence from The Mouse Lair. School comes first. This is non-negotiable.
I already hold two music degrees but I had never known before I started this master’s program in speech language pathology that your brain could actually get physically tired. During one day sometime in the beginning of November I staggered to the library and found a couch and collapsed on it and did nothing but stare at a blank wall for two hours. I simply couldn’t handle anything else. But it’s a good thing–There is something to be said for being backed in a corner, shown how high the bar is, and told “Meet it or get out.”
This, coupled with several medical catastrophes (including one that isn’t going to be resolved until we hear results after the first of the year) and I was put in a state where I could pick one, and only one thing to excel in and whenever I was home all I could mentally and physically handle was curling up in bed with a dog on each side and not thinking or moving or doing a thing. Fortunately the semester is now winding down, and during the holiday season I get all the dolls out.
I have a lot of dolls.
I don’t need any more dolls. But…
One night quite recently, I flipped through my local Craigslist. I needed to do something not related to school, get out, move around, get in the fresh air. Anything to think about something else that wasn’t school or related to the phrase “your husband might have Multiple Sclerosis….”
There isn’t very much AG on my local swap groups. I live in a city that is four hours from the nearest AG store, and I don’t think it is as prevalent as it is in other places. While there is old money here, the area is easily affected by oil booms and busts and most families I’ve noticed go to Target to buy 18 inch dolls and accessories (which is fine) or buy one, and only one, AG doll (or have it supplied by an indulging relative) and get the rest of the stuff from Target or other sources (this is also fine).
I will usually see remains of Jill’s Steals and Deals being listed for retail price or close to it, but not very many bargains. However, I found one listing that said “American girl doll $40” and I clicked on it. There was only one picture and it was not very clear–lying down with eyes closed and all I could really see was a Josefina mold and a rat’s nest of blond-ish hair. Oh good, I thought, Elizabeth with a haircut. Or…was it caramel colored hair in a badly lit shot? McKenna, perhaps?
McKenna has always been one of my favorites and I don’t have Elizabeth, so I messaged the seller and arranged a meeting point without thinking too much about it. It was actually a little exciting having a mystery; I would have been fine with either.
The following morning, tired and bleary eyed from studying the night before, I got into the car and met the woman at a coffee shop across from the local community college.
I’m always a bit on edge when dealing with people on Craiglist. There are some real nutters out there and I remember getting blindingly pissed off when nine times out of ten I would end up contacting terribly rude people. This lady, however, was perfectly lovely and we had a nice chat about our families and the upcoming holidays. I was so relieved she was a pleasant person that I didn’t look at the doll too closely then either; wrapped in a fleece cloth and in a plastic bag, along with some clothes.
She told me that this used to be her daughter’s doll, and she wanted to sell it to raise money for something else she wanted. “We had gotten several responses, but they all sounded strange,” she said, and we both laughed. “But then my daughter pointed to your email and said, ‘I want her to have the doll. She isn’t weird.'” (This, dear readers, is up for debate.)
I collected the bundle and head to my own classes, and once I got back to my car to head home I peeled off the blanket to finally get a decent look–and then I got a surprise because her eyes came open and instead of blue, they were dark brown! I’d gotten someone completely different!
I was very cross. It wasn’t McKenna, Elizabeth, or even Marisol, three dolls I could easily make excuses for owning. It was my own fault for not paying attention. Who buys a doll without even looking?? I do, apparently, and I ground my teeth in irritation when I finally got home and inspected this vinyl interloper more closely.
She ended up being a very dirty #53 with fried hair. Not a Girl of the Year, or an archived historical, just a run of the mill modern/Truly Me. Oh, spiffy. I briefly toyed with the idea of sending her in with no wig cap, or a brown wig cap with all the hair snipped off and claiming she was Marisol and requesting a new head, but I really don’t need to risk any bad karma flying up my ass. Now is not the time.
I made a tally of the damage. Remains of nail polish, dirt and dust everywhere, remains of chapstick on the lips, and yikes–that wig. Ugh. Well, might as well try to clean her up while I decide what to do. At the very least, I thought, I could use this one for spare parts.
It was when I went to take off her pajamas that I remembered this used to be a girl’s best friend. Inside the bag there was a brown paper sack with some clothes in it, and I peeked inside. None of them were AG but they were all well taken care of, clean, and carefully folded. The doll wasn’t really damaged per se (well, aside from the eyelids) just very well loved and played with. At that point I saw in my mind’s eye a young girl, fast leaving childhood behind, who still cared enough to want to send her doll to a good place where it would be loved and cared for, and wrapping her up in her blanket before she left.
It was almost as if something touching and unexpected had been hiding all along in this simple transaction, love in one of its many forms disguised as a worn and tired looking doll with no paint on her eyelids. I know some of you reading this will think I’m nuts or a sentimental fool (six of one, half a dozen of the other), but there was something special in this doll that I didn’t see at first. She was apparently meant to come here.
Oh, what the hell, I sighed, I don’t already have a #53, I like the Josefina mold and I probably won’t see her eyelids all that often anyway. I already don’t really notice it all that much…
I scrubbed her face to get all the chapstick off, gave her nose a quick swipe with some very fine model grade sandpaper to take care of the shine marks, and attacked her hair with the same Pleasant Company wire hairbrush that I ordered in 1993 with my Samantha. I took the spray bottle with water in it, misted the wig, took my flatiron on a low setting (be very careful if you ever do this–have the setting too high, and you’ll melt the wig) and carefully flatironed her frazzled hair section by section. With my embroidery scissors, I evened up the ends of the wig.
My OG ballerina outfit was close at hand. I had never put it on a doll before but once I put it on this one, it seemed absolutely just right. She did have a pretty face, and her head tilt gave her an inquisitive look.
Well, that settles it, I thought. Isabelle and Layla can always welcome someone else in the dance studio. But she needs her own name. More thought on the matter (and a quick break to chase my treacherous dachshund, who likes to chew on doll shoes, out of the room) and I’d decided she looked like a Gabi, short for Gabriella.
Dolls are like animals–once they are named, they are staying–and she is currently relaxing in Caroline’s Parlor while I start arranging everything for the holidays.