Monday, February 7, 2011


it was last fall that i unearthed her.

a crisp and sunny november day in denver
where i had found myself
with gloves and rags, tape and scissors
with the daunting task
of cleaning out that storage space
that's been housing my belongings
ever since my parents cut ties
and sold the childhood home
some years ago.
my stuff has been collecting dust
ever since i left for college,
and to be honest,
i had no idea what i was going to find
in all those dirty, smashed and aging cardboard boxes.
plenty of it were already things
that i was able to easily part with.
much of it i passed on to family,
or sent to goodwill.
but this?
this little thing i had forgotten about.

the memories of her "adoption"
started trickling back into my mind
as i unwrapped that family baby blanket
from off her face,
standing there in the cold among my mess.

i recalled her box,
the adoption certificate, the stamp on her bum.
i remember joann,
who lived across the backyard fence from us,
who had stacks of them in her bedroom,
all in boxes, waiting for resell
to some anxious little girl
who was too far back in the line
outside of toys-r-us,
and left emptyhanded
the day the big shipment came in.
i remember the craze.
the mania.
and my personally falling victim,
as most little girls of that age did.
i also had the faintest memory
of putting her in a box
for the future--
thinking perhaps someday
i would have a little girl
who might appreciate the doll
her mother used to dress, and feed,
and put to sleep in a little bed.

but my mind took me next to her predecessor--

gabriel came to me
a little bit differently--
i can still see her face, her hair,
her hands and her little red & white dress
as clear as day--
gabriel came to me
 awhile before this pink baldy
who was one of a billion
likely made in a chinese sweat shop
who cost too much
and whose purchase
made me sucker to mass consumerism
and fadism at its finest.

gabriel came to me before all that,
straight from a busy, loving, and frugal mother of five--
who didn't, or perhaps couldn't,
answer my pleas for one of those dolls
with the purchase of one,
but instead spent hours and hours of labor,
probably by day and by night
crafting a homemade version for me.
her hands sewn just the same, her little bum,
her red hair made of yarn, tied in ponytails,
her eyes lovingly painted onto her face,
to look just like the real ones. . .
and even a birth certificate,
written in my mom's fancy calligraphy.
instead of one of a billion, one of a kind.

and i don't remember all the details--
i do remember my father making me a wooden bed for her,
and i do remember playing with her.
but i also know
that a real cabbage patch was purchased for me
some time later.
maybe when the prices had come down.
and i guess because i had kept asking.

all of this came flooding back to me.
all of this,
as i stood there
holding this mass-produced hunk of plastic
and nylon--
and with pangs of sorrow and regret.
why hadn't gabriel survived the years?
where did she end up?
why was it this thing was stored away,
this thing that unfortunately doesn't mean nothing to me,
but serves as a painful reminder
that i didn't appreciate my mother and her love enough?
that i didn't see it all as a child?
that i wanted more?

and now i'm stuck with this doll,
who means nothing to my children,
and means nothing to me.
and i'm stuck with the regret
that somehow, somewhere, sometime,
gabriel got lost. 


uniquelynat said...

this could SO be my story. I wanted a REAL cp doll. and got Lindsey instead. lovingly made for me for my 8th birthday by a loving mother. i have just a little bit different ending though- i still have her. and love her. but also have a daughter that doesn't love dolls. so she still sits in a box waiting to be loved again.

i'm sorry you don't still have gabriel.

happyfamily said...

Wow! CP dolls must have been really expensive, because I have the same story. Except, I still have Ermie, who is my homemade doll. She/he doesn't have any hair and never did. But, she/he outlasted my real cp doll, whose head was broken when I got her out of storage.

OnGod'sErrand said...

These are the stories that mothers think that they will never here, but alas although it's 30 years later, you do appreciate. And so, when you find yourself believing that your children are unappreciative----think of Gabriel and know that someday, they will understand too. love you!

Amy said...

Im crying. I have annabelle. She also has red hair and is home made by my mom who NEVER made anything. (did they have some mass homemaking meeting where they made these or something?). I was so disappointed to get Annabelle instead of a real cabbage patch doll, but somehow, luckily, I ended up keeping her. My girls have ALL loved her. She has spent time sleeping with each of them because she magically brings good dreams. I have never made my girls a doll. I went on Etsy and ordered someone else to make one for Christmas. What kind of mother am i? Our

Sue said...

Isn't that how life goes? I guess we really do see through a glass darkly, don't we? And by the time we realize what we were looking at, it's gone.

Fortunately, you still have the wonderful memory of a mother's love and the doll she fashioned out of it.