"Mommy, can you make a doll for me?"
My own childhood relationship with dolls was a little rocky. When I was 6, in 1971, I took one of my dolls to school because all the other girls brought dolls to school. One girl, seeing mine, announced, "Yours is different." She did not say it in a mean-spirited way, but I took it to be something bad and I never brought another doll to school. My doll was brown, just like me.
My daughter, thankfully, has no such baggage and loves dolls, starting with Dolly, whose travails were the subject of this post. She has dolls all over her room. When she was about five years old, she asked me if I could make her a doll. Clearly, since I could make quilts and Halloween costumes, a doll was within my capabilities, according to five-year-old logic.
Unfortunately, when it came to doll-making, I had five-year-old skills at that time. I had worked as an economist; as a development specialist for Ghana, Togo, and Benin; and as a manager for projects working to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. I was a quilter, but doll-maker? No. It was slow going. My daughter has all of my first attempts, and she loved them as if they were perfect because her Mommy made them.
It took a couple of years, but I finally worked out a doll that I really liked. They were brown, just like my sweet daughter. Hand-dyeing the fabric for their skin allows me to create almost any skin tone, and their embroidered little faces make me smile. I took some and a few quilts to sell at a Links Assembly in Detroit in 2010, after considerable prodding by family and friends.
I sold almost all of them, but the best part was the way the women smiled when they saw them. They thought of their daughters or granddaughters. They thought of their own fond doll memories. They looked happy. And that made me happy, too. Ecstatic, really.