Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas All Dolled Up I

Dolls and Christmas have been entwined in my heart since I found Tiny Tears, above, under the tree the year I was three (I think). She had some great features - she drank from a bottle with real water in it, cried and wet, and her eyes only closed if you lay her down and rocked her. She also came with pleasing accessories - clothes, a doll bottle, diapers, and in my vivid memory, a pacifier that was the only way to make her tears stop. I clearly recall losing the pacifier on Christmas night when we ventured out to my cousins' house for dinner and weeping along with her as she cried out her lifetime supply of tears. But I recently learned from Kaylee's Corner that I have a faulty memory: Tiny Tears didn't come with a pacifier, much less need one to stop crying. It must have been her bubble pipe that I lost as I have no recollection of it in ensuing years.
As you can see, Tiny was subject to some vigorous playing (and grooming) over my childhood. I practiced my mothering skills on her, cuddled her for comfort (hard body and all), pretended like mad with her, and even used her as an accepting, nonjudgmental confidante. Though I had many much loved dolls over the years, Tiny was and is my favorite of all and still sits by my work area to inspire me.
Did you have a favorite doll?

If you'll be giving someone a doll for Christmas this year, and I hope you will be, you might want to consider a last minute dash to the bookstore (or click on an online seller) for a doll-themed book to go with it. Here are few of my vintage recommendations, one holiday-related, some not (and more to come in a later post I hope):

The Best Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill with illustrations by Elliot Gilbert
This old-fashioned, sweet story is back in print - hooray! - but the vintage copies are more appealing to me. It tells the story of a little girl invited to a party where prizes will be given for dolls in various categories. The girl owns dolls that would likely win prizes, but there's no prize that would be right for Jennifer, the doll she loves best. Which doll will she choose?
The small rag doll above, perched on a page from the book, was also well-loved (though Tiny still claims my heart). My mother made her for me when I was in third grade and having a rough time with a teacher who was a poor fit for me. The doll wore a dress that matched one my mom made for me - and she fit right in the pocket of my dress, so I could carry her along for comfort without anyone being particularly aware. Her dress (and mine) have gone astray in the years since, but I did sew her a new outfit this year. I'm grateful to her and my mother for making that tough year a little easier.

A Gift from the Lonely Doll by Dare Wright
This holiday book was part of a series of books about a Lenci doll named Edith and her adoptive family that included Mr. Bear and Little Bear. As a child, I loved these books because the characters seemed so utterly real (apparently to their creator as well, whom you can learn more about at her official website here.)
In this book, Edith and the Bears are off to visit relatives for the holidays, while Edith, determined to make something special for Mr. Bear, suffers some handmade gift misfortunes (with which I can readily identify). One thing I always loved about these books was the way the dolls inhabited basically a people-sized world - it underscored my fantasy that dolls were living, sentient beings.

William's Doll by Charlotte Zolotow
If you have boys on your gift list, please consider a doll for them too! The dolls (and softie) below are ones that belonged to the males in my household. From left: Ted-Ted, a new baby gift to my middle son, he traveled far and wide with his owner having adventures like falling in the toilet in a Toronto hotel; Scotty, who was a Christmas gift to my oldest the year he got a new brother (I'm going to monitor that child's parenting skills closely when the time comes - he spent a lot of time poking Scotty's eyes, dragging him around by the hair caveman-style, and submerging him for long periods of time while bathing him, also, Scotty was always naked); and last but not least, Pearl, who was beloved by my husband when he was small and later by all of my kids, but especially by the oldest.
William's Doll was revolutionary when it was released. You can read about it on the author's website here. William is a little boy who likes lots of playthings, but wants a doll - which his father refuses to buy for him. Fortunately, a wise grandma intervenes, explaining that William needs a doll
"so that
when he's a father
like you,
he'll know how to
take care of his baby
and feed him
and love him
and bring him
the things he wants,
like a doll
so that he can
practice being
a father. "
Lest you think this book is outdated and no longer needed, pay a visit to the doll section in any big box or toy store - everything is still pink and girly. And I still know plenty of dads who'd prefer their sons not have baby dolls. Sigh.

An CPSIA Update
As we near the end of the year, vintage children's books remain banned for sale or lending to children under CPSIA (though most libraries are leaving them on the shelves until ordered not to). There have been some recent developments that give me hope that change may be coming. See this recent article in Publisher's Weekly about how the law currently affects the children's book market, including vintage books. I was only able to find this cryptic dispatch about ALA executive director Emily Sheketoff's meeting with the head of the CPSC. Keep pressuring Congress if you care about these old books.


Anonymous said...

Great post Carrol,
Love Tiny, Ted-Ted, Scotty and Pearl! I enjoyed hearing some of their history.
My 3yr old Boy likes to take care of his dolls and we have no hesitation to encourage him. We set up little beds and have make believe food etc...
It is sad and strange that some dad's are challenged by their boys nurturing side!?
Do they think this instinct too feminine maybe?

Your books look very special too - not too familiar with what CPSIA is all about, reading up a little it appears they could not even define miss out on these wonderful old books would be tragedy!
Happy 2010!
Love from Chele xx

All I Have said...

Your talk of Tiny Tears brings back memories of my 3rd dolly a Teeny Tiny Tears...she too could cry and wet and had a bottle and i'm almost sure she had a dummy...with a very pointy part which went in the mouth. I also had a lovely Black dolly both had hard bodies, and both were very much loved and played with. My Tiny tears even got to play the part of Jesus in the Junior school nativity one year.(I'd forgotten that until now :) )

I'm another one who believes it would benefit a boy to have a dolly, I bought one for my nephew and he loved that dolly, named him (as it had blue clothing so it became a boy)and took him shopping, to bed etc. He now has 2 younger sisters and I'm sure it helped him when caring for them.

What a shame there are some people who don't appreciate the books you and I grew up listening to and then reading for ourselves, surely it's about freedom of choice? Not sure how it effects us here in the UK, but I sorely hope someone wakes up and realises that some books are to be treasured.

Many thanks for a trip down memory lane and for your lovely crafty ideas.

Marie Antionette said...

Hi Hon,
I came across your blog bt accident,while looking for a pacifier for my Tiny Tears.
And You are half right about the pacifier.I got my Tiny when they first came out .Then I got another a year later.So I had both the molded and real haired dolls.Both came with pacifiers.The only thing you got wrong is...The pacifier was not used to stop the crying.It just went into her little mouth.What made her cry was feeding her bottle to her.That is what made her wet and cry .It stoped when the water ran dry in her body.
I hope this helps you.I still have my original doll and I just bought a tears doll with the hair.I was lokking for a pacifier to complete her.
Come visit me some time.
Hugs Marie Antionette