A Twinkle

SAM_4469 The day we went to the highlands, I brought my littlest chinahead in my purse.  She is the head I found in London and I made a tiny leather body for.

SAM_4476 Here is Chatty Cathy standing on the wardrobe.  The view from my bed.  The box behind her is THE BOX.  It has my remaining dolls on the top 1/4 area, the rest is bags of their clothes and accessories.

How do I feel about her?  A remembrance of my childhood.  If I examine her, nuances of those times come back in sweet little waves of nostalgia.  But I cannot say that she is the one I lost. I cannot say that I can deal with her non poseable body.  I admire her childlike legs and knobby knees, her lovely modelled hands.  But over all, she cannot do much other than stand and sit and I don’t feel the pull I wish I did.  I want her to mean more, I almost feel the potential, but then it fades as fast as it almost begins.  Putting her up on the wardrobe is the next stop to putting her in the box with the others.  I don’t regret her purchase and I do feel good about the experience, but at this point and time, I am not searching for new doll experiences.

SAM_4477 Rosey’s room remains by my bed.  I still like that she has a place to call her own. 

SAM_4479Yesterday morning the rare Scottish sun came streaming in and I looked up at Rosey.  I liked what I saw and took a photo. 

SAM_4482The warm sunlight on her lovely wood skin appealed to me and for the first time quite a while, I felt the need to interact directly with her, not just in thoughts.  Look at the difference between the last two photo’s.  She went from looking dull and bored with waiting and then suddenly burst into liveliness, ready to play because my interest focussed on her.  This time, instead of me looking for a twinkle of life in her eyes, she was looking for one in mine!

SAM_4484 What a lovely girl she is. 

SAM_4486 Rosey in the sunlight  I adore her.  I adore that I do not have to worry about the sun turning her skin a ghastly yellow.  She continues to be the best poser, the most unusual and the liveliest doll I have ever known. 

SAM_4490SAM_4491  Sigh.  That outfit is one that I made for my old Evie.  It brought back a flood of memories.  It looks so sweet on Rosey.

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I think she is not going to go back to just laying there waiting for me to get out of my dolly stagnation.

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Clean Up of Chatty Cathy

Yesterday I wanted to wash Chatty Cathy’s hair and see if I could stuff her head to push her eye sockets a bit forward to help the crossed eye look.

I did not have a hair dryer, so I used the bed-buddy which is warmed in the microware and wrapped that around her neck to soften the vinyl.  I then eased her head off.

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The face is indeed soft, too soft for a doll in my opinion.  I was surprised to see a paper towel inside her head.  Just a single paper towel.  Have no idea why.  Assuming maybe her hair was washed at some point and this was to help dry? 

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Inside her body is the black phonograph.  There was no string inside that might have fallen into the body.  I see no attempts to repair the unit, the side seams are completely intact.

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I noticed that it was difficult to move her one leg, and then discovered why.  It is a small piece of rubber, I believe it is a bit of the O ring that was on the phonograph.  From what I read, that is what eventually crumbles and prevents her from talking, the phonograph itself is still operable.

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I washed her hair (smells so good) and used a pick to comb out the curls and re-wrapped them in finger curls.  The photo doesn’t show it but there is a nice luster to her hair, the condition is

excellent.  After she was dry, I balled up small pieces of plastic bubble wrap and carefully stuffed her head.  I noticed when I washed her hair that crown was soft enough to have caved in too, so the bubble wrap gave her head stability and firmness that she lacked.  The vinyl itself is in excellent condition, nice and velvety matte, no marks or stains or discolouration.  I made sure her eyes close (not pushed too far into the socket) before putting the head back on) and then made sure the bubble wrap did not interfere with the head turning.  I have yet to clean the rest of her body or take her shoes off yet.  I looked up her markings on her back and she is a first issue.  1960 was the year she was made with the black phonograph and her mark has the verbage in the box with the circle Mattel stamp underneath.  In a twist of logic, the first editions are the most common found and not of value so far.  The black Chatty is the most valuable and the ones with brown hair and eyes plus a few more that were unusual hair and eye combinations.

All of these things are not important to me.  What is more important is simply having this chance to reach back into my past and be able to touch it and re-live it in a sentimental way.  Last night I put Rosey in her bed and placed Chatty Cathy standing next to her bed and as I laid in my own bed I could not help but watch her.  She didn’t seem so alien, so jarring anymore.  Her face was softer and she had a presence.  A definite presence.  I like that in a doll.  The knock knees are so charming and the finger pointing is full of personality.  The eyes take time to get use to.  In my searches I noticed that the majority of the Chatty’s have the same right eye turning in, that the eye socket seems larger than the eye.  The nose is too upturned, giving her a piggy look but somehow it all falls together to give her an iconic classic doll persona.

I always find that active handling of a new doll is part of the bonding process.  Washing them, dressing and undressing, hair combing are all a way of getting to know the doll, it’s movements, it’s quirks in standing and sitting.  Chatty Cathy is well balanced, her arms hold a pose, her legs are heavy and sturdy, but her movements are very limited.  All she can do is stand and sit and hold an arm up or down and turn her head.  As I thought about this severe limitation on play, I also noted that her presence is more vital than her movements.  Just standing, she has her own way of being very much there, vibrant and alive.  It forces me to rethink what I think is important in a doll companion.

The few times in the past when I considered getting one for “old times sake” the ones I felt were affordable were in not very good condition.  I really feel blessed to have gotten this one in a country that never sold them in this excellent state.  No scratches or ink marks.  No cut hair, no white vinyl.  I just took her shoes and socks off for the first time and can see her feet never have been marred in play.  I don’t believe she was a play doll, perhaps she simply stood on the shelf or got put away when the string broke.

Who knows these things about an old doll, all I can do is muse.  I was put off at her arrival but now, she is  growing on me, slowly letting me get re-acquainted with all that I thought was the ultimate love of my tender 7 year old mind.  I can see why, although through the years I have refined the ideal doll through the needs I have now in posing, photography and play.  Yet, I am very glad I got her, glad to have her be back in my life.

Chatty Cathy Arrives

Chatty Cathy arrived yesterday and I was appalled.  Although the seller had the word dolls in her user name, she apparently didn’t think to use a box to send a vintage doll in.

She arrived like this:

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I am sure I am being over sensitive, but this mummification of a beloved childhood doll disturbed me.  My thoughts about her instantly were negative.  Not only were there issues of possible damage, the very sight of her like this made me think she was dead.

I couldn’t open the package for about an hour.  I felt that if she was damaged, it would be another Chatty Cathy trauma.  Way too much emotion wrapped up like a mummy.

Finally, I took a deep breath and approached the brown thing.  A pupa?  A mummy?  I felt like I was about to dissect something gory.  No doll could have survived this treatment.

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This was this was the only outward damage I found, a rip and black scuff make on her white shoe.  I still wasn’t sure about the inward damage.  She has a hard plastic body, which is known to crack and split.  Tossed about in postal handling, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

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It was a challenge to find a cutting place and I worried about cutting into hair or clothing.  But I managed to free her.

SAM_4246 Her first photo….I think I was stunned.  There she was, this icon of my childhood, this first love of mine.  Memories came rushing back in full force and my heart did do a couple of flip flops.  My curiosity kept needling me, just what was it about her?  Was it the looks?  The size? The demise that kept this doll so embedded in my psyche?  As an adult, I look at her and this she is not particularly attractive.  She’s cute in a vintage doll sort of way.  I always liked her knobby knees and sweet hands, even as a child.  She was the first doll I received that was not a baby with bent arms and legs, and I remember how thrilled I was about her being able to stand like a real person.  I remember her talking, but I don’t remember that being anything important at the time.  I seem to remember that her being more like a little girl than a baby and therefor a companion to me as an only child was probably the depth of it.  I was about 6-7 years old I think when I got her, so my reasoning at the time was not analysed.  lol.

My initial expectations were none.  Really.  I thought, I would buy her and get it out of my system.  Put it to rest, so to speak.  I stood her next to my computer and periodically looked at her.  Sometimes I reached out and grabbed her very solid leg or squished her soft face, as the bridge of the nose was a bit pushed in.  I honestly didn’t know what to think at first, something was so odd about having her here, present in front of me and something sort of kept pulling at me.  It was like I could not leave her alone but I didn’t want to touch her either.

I kept asking myself, what am I going to do with her?  This started all the fault finding I could.  Well, I had to admit she survived the mummification and she was in remarkable condition for being nearly as old as I am.  I checked her hair, she had no odours at all.  As I checked, I pulled out some of the flattened curls thinking, wow, these curls look original.  No cut marks, no empty plugs.

SAM_4252 I think it was this moment that I first warmed to her.  It was the look of a small child and the hair being more rounded suddenly tugged at me.

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She looked so expectant, so hopeful that I would like her.  I melted a bit.  Then I heard a small voice say “don’t you recognise me?”  Did I?  I wasn’t sure.  Was I blocking it?  I kept telling myself I could not step back into the past, but I think the past was stepping up to me.

Each glance at her now was becoming more affectionate.  I admired her sweetness, her proportions, her overall child like qualities.   I kept seeing a smile, a coaxing on her part, like a small child who can make the grumpiest man smile.  I caught myself smiling.  I think this might be something here I thought.  She hasn’t the face of a magnificent Zwergnase, she is not at all pose-able like a Schoenhut, she is not in the slightest my ideal of a doll, but here she was smiling at me and needing me.  That’s it!  I was struck by the doll’s need of me rather my selfish needs of it. 

This morning, I introduced Rosey to her.  I have nagging experiences of my old Evie hating every doll I brought into the house.  Rosey didn’t mind at all.  She didn’t feel the slightest hesitation to make friends even though Chatty Cathy towered over her.

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How remarkable….blue eyes, teeth…..I see a trend here.  lol.  All in all, I think I like this new situation and I am curious as to how it will all be.  I am already thinking of stuffing her head to push her eyes into alignment and a nice hair wash and conditioning might be in order.  Oh, I forgot to mention that her ring and talking string is missing, which is odd, because I don’t think she was played with much.  Perhaps it snapped off and the child who had her wanted another one or grew bored of her.  It’s not of any consequence to me, I hear her just fine without it.

And just for fun…a couple of photo’s my mother sent me of an early doll…..about 1958 I think:

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My mother, me and the doll I played a lot with but I do not remember her name.  I kept her and another similar one, my daughter played with them too.  But they were eventually tossed in a clear out for a move.  How sad is that now?  Sigh.

Memory Lane

After a year and a half without buying a doll, I have pushed the button so to speak.  This purchase was not about a desire to have a new doll, nor because I needed a change or even because I could buy one.  It was because of the circumstance, an American doll that happened to be in the UK, happened to be very reasonable in cost, and it just happened to be the kind that was my most cherished doll as a child.

I remember the day.  It was my birthday and I came home from school, finding her standing on the credenza in the entryway.  She was the most magnificent creature I had ever seen.  I had only had baby types dolls before, and this seemed to be like having a real friend, someone my own age.  She was so much fun and so dear to me.   I cannot remember how long I had her, but I was passionate about her, so much so, that to this day I remember her destruction by my callous cousins as a painful childhood event.

As an adult doll nut, I have toyed many times with the idea of getting some of my childhood dolls, although none of them are a particular interest to me today.  I prefer mulitjointed dolls, unusual dolls and not the mass produced staring eyed dolls of my childhood.  And I have always been against having dolls for the sake of having them, they are active companions or they move on.  Yet, it appealed to me to consider replacing the one special doll, seeing how it would be to hold her once again.  I have only seen her once in person since mine was destroyed…that was a few years ago at a antique market place.  She was in bad condition, with faded yellow limbs and tatty hair and a cracked side.  Her one eye was pushed in.  And still, the seller wanted £100 for her!  I didn’t get a chance to hold her, so this dolly coming to me is going to be about a bit of reliving something dear to me in my past.

I am not expecting anything to come of it.  What we think is fabulous in childhood does often seem completely odd as an adult.  It’s a memory trip, but whether I keep her or not is on the table.  I don’t have any of the usual excited doll-anticipation feelings of an incoming doll, it’s mostly just a feeling of a reunion of sorts.  So I am feeling open and amused…wondering if this will finally put to rest that terrible tragedy.  Who knows?

Here are the seller photo’s:

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She said there wasn’t any damage or discolouration’s, and as is most common she cannot speak.  Her hair appears to be uncut and still holding it’s original set.  The dress is a replacement, but from the original sewing pattern.

Mine was dark haired and here is a photo that I felt most resembled what I remember of her:

1960_brown_eyed_talking_chatty_cathy_2  I cannot be sure of the colour of eyes, but I do remember the pink dress and white apron.  I think she had brown eyes, but I maybe overly influenced by my daughter’s and granddaughters dark hair and brown eyes. But this photo gleaned off the net shows that cheerful face I remember so well.

I have an email off to my father to see if he knows of any photo’s of me with my old Chatty Cathy.  I do not recall any, but who knows.

Just What is a Companion Doll Anyways?

Perhaps some of my ambivalence with my other dolls is the result of my companionship with my Schoenhut.  A most unexpected development.  This relationship feels different.  It sprung not out of my “desire” for a perfect companion doll, but from a need that was much more basic.  It was much more child-like and in a simple and uncomplicated depth.   I am in love with the most imperfect doll I have ever had!

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Part of it may have come with all our downsizing, our constant moving and shaking.  I needed stability, a sense of home, a something that represented what I missed and felt close to.  When Evie was my companion doll, she brought me a sense of new possibilities, a new direction.  She opened my imagination to photo-stories and sewing in a new way.  I will always be grateful for my time with Evie.  I daresay that every doll that has crossed my doorstep had the potential of being a companion doll.  And as in human relationships, sometimes the losses and regrets, the unfulfilled wishes can keep us dolly nuts continuing to reach for that shining star, whatever it may be, whatever we are seeking in that very next doll that sets our imagination soaring once again.  Rosey came in with her simple self, her old  fashioned self, her history and stability, her earthy woodiness….Rosey came when I needed doll to just be a doll.  A doll like my childhood doll.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately.  This intangible love of dolls.  Certain dolls can make me squee with delight.  Some can make my mouth hang open in amazement.  Some open my imagination in a new way.  Some make me cringe, some look downright creepy.  Some make me shrug my shoulders in disinterest.  I really don’t know why I stopped playing with dolls as a child and then took the interest back up as an adult.  I look back on it for clues, but all I remember is the strange denial I went through and semi-embarrassment.  It was around 2003 that the interest picked back up and it was important to explain my interest in sewing or historical costuming…and it took awhile to give up the pretence and admit I liked dolls as dolls….as an adult.

Rosey brings me a sense of home and the past.  These days, I am reaching for something deep within me, something I recognise, something I know instead of reaching for the star.  I think returning to Europe opened up that long supressed thing inside me.  I really want to explore this…but not right now.  My intent in writing this all today was to gather around me, the ideas of what changed about my idea of a companion doll and why that affected my relationship to my other dolls.2012-10-01 045 When I see Rosey like this, I see a connection to my own childhood.  A little girl talking to a companion.  That is me.  That is my daughter.  That is my granddaughter.  It may have been my mother and my grandmother too.  It is ageless and timeless.  It’s not created, it exists.

It really clicked to see the resemblance Rosey had to my childhood Chatty Cathy.  Clicked in a way that had me sit up and take notice.  I spent the other evening looking at Chatty Cathy’s and trying to figure out what was going on in my thoughts and my heart about it.  My heart was certainly thumping…a sort of excitement, as though I really did find Chatty Cathy again.  Or was that just a spark of hope and remembrance?

As I looked at the Chatty’s online, I tried to imagine having one.  It’s certainly not impossible to bring one home.  In fact I kept telling myself I could bring one home at the click of a button.  That’s all it would take.  Yet, that same hesitancy I have always felt when close to considering it, and that is “you can never go back to what it was by bringing home an imitation”.  So I looked at Rosey.  The resemblance is there and in other ways it is not.  Rosey has a upturned nose, teeth showing, dark hair and brown eyes.  But she is not Chatty Cathy as I see her, but as I remember her inside.  I think that is what the difference is between what Evie was for me and what Rosey is for me.  Evie was the utmost in my ideal of a doll and I wanted her as my companion because it was like finding a gemstone in the sand.  I wanted to know every facet of her.

Rosey is not what I see, but what I feel when I see her. When I think of all the dolls I have brought home and then rehomed because of this or that flaw or feature I did not like, it turns out that as many imperfections as Rosey has, it does not matter.  Rosey brings me the remembrance of my love of my childhood doll companion, but she is also her own self.  I tried calling her Cathy to try it on and it was laughable.  “Do you see a pull string in my neck?”  I smiled.  Rosey has the charm of Chatty and the spirit of Evie.  Perhaps Rosey is a little bit of every doll I have ever loved or wanted.  And embracing all that, a Schoenhut who was carved and pressed and put together in 1918 or thereabouts.   She is herself before anything else.

2012-10-01 013 I don’t want to make this into a dramatic undying love homage, lol.  I just have been wrapped up in the changes, the nuances and feel to my dolly world as I settle down and relax and realize that nothing is the same as it was.  My relationships and intentions with the dolls I have so loved, have shifted.  Perhaps they will shift again.   This is what keeps the imagination thriving I guess!

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And this little one has life in every wood splinter.

Transference?

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I live in a small village and there are few stores here.  There is a Semi-Chem and a haberdashery called Y Pay More.  I was on the hunt for shampoo for me and something to curl Rosey’s hair with.  Strangely, in Semi-Chem, there weren’t any rollers, only electric hot irons.  At Y Pay More I was able to find a package of small hair rollers for £1.49.   They were pretty vintage as is most of the junk valuables in the store.  They had the plastic stick pins and I certainly remember them from my childhood!  I was so happy the only only ones they had were a perfect size for Rosey.  I damp set her hair and it turned out so sweet!  I love it!  Even my husband laughed seeing her in rollers and said she looked so pretty this morning. 

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I have played around with some black and white photo’s  of Rosey whenever I take too many and don’t care if a few can be messed with.  Whenever I see her in black and white, it brings a rush of my childhood back to me.  I wasn’t quite sure why she has this affect on me, and then this morning, as I was feeling this surge of emotion in seeing this photo in particular…… I connected the dot!

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My Chatty Cathy!  OMG!  I did not realize the pull/connection!  On my 5th or 6th birthday, I received a Chatty Cathy.  She had been imported from America and I do believe I was the only Danish girl to have one at the time.  My friends were in awe of her and I was so proud!  I remember coming home from Kindergarten and in the entryway she was standing on the console and my heart leaped in joy.  That is the first remembrance I had about feeling passionate towards a doll.  I loved that doll.  She was a true companion.  I talked to her and spent hours playing in a fantasy world with her.  I do not remember how long I had her, but one day my cousins came to visit, saw how much she meant to me, and being boys they grabbed her throwing her around to keep her out of my reach until she landed on the cement garage floor and shattered.  I remember the pain and hurt I felt.  I felt as shattered as my doll.

The only other doll that meant something to me was a baby doll I received for Christmas after Chatty was killed.   (Wow, I can’t believe I just typed that, I was about to erase it, but I am leaving it.  Freudian slip I suppose.)  Killed.  Yes, that is how it felt to lose her.  It makes me wonder why my parents didn’t get me another one.  I remember my grandfather bringing me a succession of dolls from Germany, but they did not stir me.  In fact, I thought them cold and plastic looking.  (Sorry, Grandfather).

DSC03437 That is me with Susan.  I had that doll for many years and eventually my daughter played with her too.  I have never found another one, I have no idea who made her, I suspect she was Italian.   While she was my everything, she was a baby and did not hold the companionship factor.  She was a huggable, loveable doll and I played at mothering her.  But other than the play talk of being a mother to a baby, there wasn’t the companionship I felt for Chatty Cathy.  There must be a photo of me somewhere with Chatty?  Wish I had one.

Coming back to dolls as an adult, I often thought about replacing her with a vintage Chatty Cathy, but it just didn’t happen.  I bid on a few, but lost.  I saw how popular she is with adult collectors and her price can quickly rise out of my league.  I hesitated because at the time, I was not sure I wanted a mixed material (hard plastic and soft vinyl) doll and being so enamoured of multiple joints, I wasn’t sure I would like to go back to a simple and inflexible doll.  So while I occasionally went back and looked at those available on eBay, something always held me in reserve.  I finally gave up.

My Chatty was a brunette with brown eyes, just like the one in the above photo.  My daughter and granddaughter have dark brown hair and brown eyes.  I suppose somehow all this is imbedded in Rosey?  It doesn’t really matter, but the connection is there, somehow, someway.  Seeing Rosey in a black and white photo made all those memories of a companion of long ago come flooding back.  How utterly strange and remarkable loving a doll can be. 

And while the thought is just within reach, I wonder if the love I have had for my other dolls was based more on their awesomeness, their beauty, their near-unattainableness (price, rarity, etc.).  In some ways, there is a thrill that comes with acquisition of something of value (for whatever reason).  I was clearly seeking dreamy perfection in a doll in those days.

Rosey was a damaged, wigless, urchin that had little value as she
was.  My love (need) for her seems different than with the others.  I remember when I came back from Hawaii, how I went into my doll room and grabbed her first and couldn’t let go.  I had tried two Zwergnases while in Hawaii, even had my beloved Evie sent to me, found a thrill in Yorik….but I came home and swooped up Rosey.  She was the doll I bought while still trucking and kept coming home to work on, but never had much time to let her develop. 

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2012-03-20 007 I knew she had potential.  I kept trying.  While all the different looks were ok, I felt something wasn’t quite right.   Nothing really came to me until the last transformation:

2012-09-29 005 I am just floored at the resemblance to my old Chatty.  As she moved away from the typical Schoenhut look, she looked more and more like the love of my life….dolly-wise!  lol.

WELCOME HOME DEAR DOLLY!