She was raggedy by the time my mother handed her down to me. Her mustard dress, which could easily have been made from remnants of my southern granny’s curtains, was peppered with little black daisy flowers. Her loops of red yarn hair were littered with pearls of fuzz, and the white muslin her face had been embroidered onto had become a dingy gray. I wish I could hold her now and gingerly run my fingers over the rickrack on her dress.
She didn’t have muffled cries reverberate from within a plastic frame when I squeezed her hand, and she didn’t wet herself. She didn’t sprout hair from holes in her head as I moved her arm up and down like a ratchet from my dad’s tool chest. She couldn’t play in the bathtub with me, while my sisters and I used Avon roll-on soap to draw red and blue smiley faces on our bellies. Her large stitched round eyes stayed open in permanent surprise; they didn’t open and close when I tipped her back and forth on the swing set. I couldn’t even change her shoes; they were permanently sewn to her feet over her red and white striped stockings.
There wasn’t a string you could pull out from her back to make her talk or a place to insert batteries so that she could walk, but she was portable and soft. She came from a time where make-believe and magic wasn’t bought, it was made.
I would include her in ring-around-the-Rosie, my hand holding one of her little padded hands, and my sister holding the other, and when we all fell down, we would exhale with a giggle and look up at the sky and squint against the sun and smile.