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Theresa Allen


Baby Doll

Most of my earliest memories aren't really "memories." They are more like snapshots, still-life pictures randomly chosen by some higher intelligence with a mean sense of humor, which float to the surface with no apparent meaning, no discernable explanation or deeper significance. For instance, I remember standing in the backyard of the house that we lived in when I was just more than 1 year old staring at the rusted, wire fence that separated us from our neighbors. I also remember, from roughly the same age, standing in front of the toilet, unwinding handful after handful of toilet paper from the spool and depositing each handful into the toilet.

My first, real, clear memory that came with a definable context was from the time when I was 2 and a . It was in the new house. The sun was shining through a window on to a bowl of split pea soup. Granny was helping me with the spoon and telling me that I was the only child in the history of mankind who enjoyed eating vegetables and split pea soup. It was early autumn. Leaves were starting to turn colors and on that particular morning, the air was wonderfully crisp and clean.

Mid-bowl, the front door swung open. My parents entered the house ushering with them a suitcase, several medical boxes, and a small bundle wrapped up in a "Property of Mercy Hospital" blanket.

The bundle was soon making word sounds. He was a sweet bundle, with a very good nature. I had been just the opposite. The only talking that I did before 3 years of age was to myself during nap time when no one was around. I was colicky and difficult to cuddle which meant that intimacy with me came with an ear-piercing price tag.

The bundle fit wonderfully into my doll clothes. So, there was this oblivious little bundle dressed in gingham, then in plaid, then taffeta, holding court with an older female sibling and a gaggle of naked, plastic attendants. What was really a riot was dressing the bundle up in one doll outfit or another and then letting him walk, or, more appropriately, waddle, out of my bedroom, down the carpeted hallway to the laundry room, and watching his reaction to the black and white checkered, tile floor. The bundle, upon reaching the threshold of the laundry room floor, would stand and stare for a moment. Then, get down on all fours, and carefully place one hand in a black square, the other in a white square, and inch his ginghamed, sashed upper body forward until he could place his knees in squares also, one in a black square, the other in a white. Then, he would proceed on all fours, carefully progressing from one layer of squares to the next with strategically placed hands and knees, until he got to the threshold of the kitchen. Once there, he would stand up and continue walking as he had done from my bedroom.

Several times a day, every day of the week, I would go through this exercise with the bundle, who proved to be as predictable and regular as a Seth Thomas Metronome. I never tired of watching him ascend the level surface of the laundry room floor as one would a staircase. The bundle's routine across the tile floor kept me amused for countless of my preschool hours. At times, the novelty would start to wane so I would "spice things up." Once, before letting him loose into the hallway in a Chatty Cathy party dress, I put my Mary Jane's on him, right shoe on left foot, left shoe on right. He was my own, special piece of performance art.

It was a summer afternoon, while I was watching the bundle get down on all floors at the threshold of the laundry room floor, when my mother called out to me from the front room. Without thinking, I turned and pranced into the front room to find that her uncle had come over with a gift for me and the bundle, a beagle puppy. But as soon as I got my hands on the puppy, a loud, earth shaking shriek filled the house. We found the bundle standing before the entrance of the laundry room. Tears were rolling down his face. He couldn't tackle "the staircase" without my observance. Upon my arrival, he stopped crying and proceeded, totally unaware of the dog, to "climb the floor."

So, I began to hold court with a beagle puppy, Granny called him "kastanaki" but I called him Warren, and the bundle dressed up in all the finery that my poor naked-as-jaybird dollies could sacrifice. Warren proved to be much more of a dressing challenge than the bundle ever was. After many unsuccessful attempts to thread his front legs into Baby-See-And-Say's christening gown, the doll dresses were, once again, the sole domain of the bundle. Court was in session until it came time for me to start Kindergarten.

At 7:30 am, my mother took me by the hand and led me out the door. But before we could get beyond the lawn to the sidewalk, the bundle came running out of the house wearing his training pants and a white, chocolate-milk stained t-shirt. He was screaming, just like the day when Warren joined us. His face was red and contorted. Tears were flowing down his chubby little cheeks. He yelled something that sounded like, "Doe Bleed Mit Ow Me!"

"Doe Bleed Mit Ow Me!"

It's too late Bundle, I had no choice. I had to leave without you.

February, 1999, July 2004

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